Rwanda's former first lady loses bid to drop French genocide probe

Court’s rejection based on technicalities, says lawyer

James Tasamba   | 31.08.2021
Rwanda's former first lady loses bid to drop French genocide probe

KIGALI, Rwanda 

A French appeals court on Monday rejected a request by the widow of Rwanda's former President Juvenal Habyarimana to drop an investigation into allegations that she played a role in the country’s 1994 genocide of the Tutsi ethnic group, French media reported. 

Agathe Habyarimana, 78, has lived in France since 1998.

She has been questioned twice over allegations that she was part of the Hutu inner circle of power that planned and orchestrated the killings of mainly Tutsis.

“The true debate is being eclipsed because the court is focusing on legal quibbles,” Habyarimana's lawyer, Philippe Meilhac, was quoted by the French news agency AFP as saying.

French authorities have refused Rwanda's request for her extradition, even though the government has denied her asylum amid ongoing investigations.

Last November, a lower court had refused her bid to have the investigation dropped, a ruling upheld Monday by the Paris appeals court.

Tom Ndahiro, a Rwandan genocide scholar, said while the ruling was welcomed, questions remain on what’s next.

“The court issued the right decision, but I hope something else follows quickly. She should actually be extradited to Rwanda to face justice,” Ndahiro told Anadolu Agency.

The investigation was launched in 2008 after a French-based victims' association, the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda (CPCR), filed a legal complaint against Habyarimana.

“Those who have been pursuing the case are happy about the ruling, but anyone against impunity wonders what is going on in France. What’s next is much more important than Monday’s appeals court ruling,” Ndahiro added.

In 1994, an estimated one million people, mainly from the Tutsi ethnic community and moderate Hutus, were killed in 100 days.

Of the more than 1,000 Rwandan genocide fugitives still at large, around 47 are in France, according to Rwanda’s Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit.

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