The Council of State authorized, Friday June 12, the consultation by a researcher of the archives of President François Mitterrand on Rwanda (1990-1995), which the French authorities have so far refused, whose role in the genocide of 1994 remains controversial. The highest French administrative court considers that this consultation for research purposes “Has a legitimate interest”, for’“Inform the debate on a matter of public interest”.
This decision closes five years of proceedings and constitutes a “Very very good news”welcomed the researcher who took the case to court. François Graner is the author of several books on France in Rwanda and close to the association Survie engaged contre la “Françafrique”.
“We do not expect a scoop from these archives, some of which are already known”, he reminded Agence France-Presse. “But we want to be able to do substantive, serious, serene work to understand what everyone knew at the time” Of the history.
The documents referred to, emanating from advisers to the Elysée Palace or minutes of a meeting of the government of the time, were not to be legally opened until 2055. But the Council of State “Recalls that early consultation is however possible with the authorization of the representative”. “The protection of state secrets must be weighed against the interest of informing the public about these historic events”, notes the institution.
The administrative justice cancels two previous court decisions and enjoins the French Ministry of Culture, which had opposed the researcher’s request, to open access to the requested archives within three months.
Secret defense documents
François Graner had seized the administrative court of Paris following an implicit refusal of access to documents on behalf of the commission of access to the administrative documents (CADA). He was unsuccessful and appealed to the French Supreme Court.
Some of the documents he wanted to consult, to write a book on François Mitterrand’s African politics, were classified “Secret”, ” top secret “ or “Confidential defense”, he had been told so far, despite the decision taken in April 2015 to declassify Elysee documents relating to Rwanda during this period.
In its decision, the Litigation Assembly of the Council of State judges that “The administration must allow the researcher to access these archives” and that the consultation of certain sensitive documents “Has already been authorized”. He recalls that access to public archives ” result ” including article 15 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which provides that “Society has the right to demand account from any public official in its administration”.
“It’s a victory for law but also for history”, responded counsel for Mr. Graner, Me Patrice Spinosi. “From now on, researchers, like Mr. Graner, will be able to have access to President Mitterrand’s presidential archives to shed light on the role of France in Rwanda in 1994 and 1995”, he said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.
The judges specify, however, that this consultation is only granted if it does not carry a “Excessive interference with the secrecy of executive deliberations, the conduct of foreign policy and the fundamental interests of the state”.
Progressive archive openings
The gray areas on the role of Paris before, during and after the genocide in Rwanda – which claimed, according to the United Nations, at least 800,000 deaths from April to July 1994, mainly within the ethnic group Tutsi – remain a recurring source of controversy in France.
Among the most disputed points are the extent of the military assistance provided by France to the regime of Rwandan Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana from 1990 to 1994 and the circumstances of the attack which cost him his life on April 6, 1994, a trigger of the genocide.
Following François Hollande, who in 2015 authorized the declassification of the archives of the François-Mitterrand collection, Emmanuel Macron announced in 2019 the opening of the French archives concerning Rwanda between 1990 and 1994 to a commission of historians.