The widow of Rwanda’s former president, wanted in connection with the country’s 1994 genocide, has won her court appeal against extradition from France.
Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of Juvenal Habyarimana, has been sought by the Rwandan state prosecutor since 2009 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Paris court’s reasoning for the decision was not immediately available, but it is binding on French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. Rwanda could still make a second request, but an extradition now appears unlikely.
Rwanda’s genocide erupted after an plane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down as near the capital, Kigali. French investigators have been looking into the case because the plane’s crew was French.
Some 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus, were massacred by radical Hutus in under 100 days. The massacres ended when Tutsi-led rebels under current President Paul Kagame defeated the Hutu extremists in July 1994.
The head of the Rwandan government’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide – in which Kagame is a member – last year claimed Agathe Habyarimana was the “main architect” of the genocide.
Following the request by Rwandan authorities two years ago, French police detained Habyarimana last year, but she was released on condition that she stay in France and check in regularly with police.
At the court, Habyarimana said she was “delighted” with the decision and alleged that Rwandan authorities today were after her “because they know they killed my husband.”
“What I really would like is for the truth to come out on this assassination. Those who downed the aeroplane of the President Habyarimana and his counterparts from Burundi must be identified,” she said. Cyprien Ntaryamira, president of neighbouring Burundi, was among those killed.
Agathe Habyarimana – a Hutu like her husband – was helped out of Rwanda by French forces on April 9, 1994, and lived in what was then known as Zaire, now called Congo, before moving to France.
In 2004, France rejected her request for political asylum, alleging she was at the heart of the regime responsible for the genocide. Two years ago, a French court denied her appeal, arguing she had de facto authority in state affairs and rejecting as not credible her claims that she had no power.