France’s largest bank is facing serious accusations after three NGOs on Thursday said they filed legal action against BNP Paribas alleging “complicity in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity” during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
The suit alleges Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), as the bank was known before its merger with Paribas in 2000 to become BNP Paribas, “participated in financing the purchase of 80 tonnes of arms that served to perpetrate the genocide” despite the fact, it claims, “that the bank could not have doubted the genocidal intentions of the authorities of the country for which it authorized the transfer” of funds. The groups note that a United Nations arms embargo was in effect at the time.
The genocide in the tiny central African country claimed 800,000 lives, mostly from Rwanda’s ethnic Tutsi minority, between April and July 1994.
The three NGOs leading the charge are Sherpa, an anti-corruption group that defends victims of economic crimes, Ibuka France, an association that defends survivors of the genocide, and the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), a group based in France that pursues claims against genocide suspects. Sherpa earned headlines recently when it filed a lawsuit against the Swiss-French cement giant LafargeHolcim alleging the company financed Islamic State group in Syria.