The trial of two former Rwanda mayors began on Tuesday in France.
Octavien Ngenzi, 58, and Tito Barahira, 64 are facing charges of crimes against humanity and genocide over the 1994 massacres in the east African country.
The duo are allegedly accused of playing a direct role in the massacre of about 2000 Tutsi refugees in a church in the eastern town of Kabarondo on April 13, 1994.
Both were arrested separately in French territory a few years ago and have been held in custody since then.
More than 100 victims, relatives and witnesses, some of whom traveled from Rwanda, are expected to testify during the eight-week Paris trial.
“I only represent the plaintiffs, I’m not public prosecutor, but for me a crime against humanity and genocide requires a justified sentence and that sentence would be the maximum penalty,” said Richard Gisara, the plaintiff’s lawyer.
However, the duo continue to deny accusations of carrying out systematic summary executions of Tutsis and could face up to life imprisonment if convicted.
This is the second trial to be held in France for suspected perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, under a special UN approved law allowing France universal jurisdiction for related crimes.
In the first such trial held in France in 2014, Pascal Simbikangwa, a former head of the Rwandan intelligence service, was convicted of genocide and complicity of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He has appealed the verdict.
The shooting down of the presidential plane on April 6, 1994, was blamed on the Tutsis and is considered to be the event that sparked the genocide.
Some 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed by Hutu extremists during the three months of the Rwandan genocide in April 1994, according to UN estimates.
Two decades on, Rwanda accuses France of complicity in the genocide and on the 20th anniversary of the mass killings two years ago, Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, openly accused French soldiers of not only complicity in the genocide, but of actually taking part in it.