Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell today formally launched a bid to put Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe on trial in Paris for torture.
Mr Tatchell filed his formal complaint with the French authorities just as President Mugabe arrived in Paris to attend a Franco-Africa summit.
The two men are old adversaries. The last time
they met Mr Tatchell was beaten up and left in a Brussels gutter after trying to intercept the president in a hotel lobby.
This time a face to face confrontation looked more difficult: heavy security surrounded the luxury hotel just off the Champs Elysees where the Zimbabwe delegation to the talks is staying.
A small symbolic protest against the Mugabe regime was staged by Mr Tatchell’s supporters nearby as Mr Tatchell delivered his case to a Paris judge.
But the chances of any legal action being taken are extremely remote – France has no history of attempting to prosecute foreign leaders, and French President Chirac fought hard to ensure the leader of Zimbabwe was present for the meeting.
He risked the fury of fellow EU leaders by insisting on a visit, despite an ban on all travel within the EU for President Mugabe and leaders of his regime.
The concession to France still rankles with Prime Minister Tony Blair but President Chirac feared other African leaders would boycott his summit if President Mugabe was kept out.
The French president also says it will do more good to engage with the Zimbabwe regime, particularly at a summit discussing international human rights.
But Mr Tatchell is determined to nail his man, pressing today for action under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which France has signed.
His formal complaint against President Mugabe was set out in a document handed in at the Palais de Justice this morning.
There was no sign of any urgency about acting upon its contents.
Apart from anything else, the embarrassment will be too great for President Chirac who sees himself as Africa’s best friend in the West – a status he is determined to keep.