France rejects Rwandan extradition request

Court rules against sending widow of ex-Rwanda President Habyarimana to Kigali to stand trial on 1994 genocide charges.

    The Rwandan genocide ended when President Paul Kagame defeated the Hutu extremists in July 1994 [Reuters]

    A French appeals court has ruled against extraditing the wife of Juvenal Habyarimana, Rwanda's former president, home to stand trial in connection with the African nation's 1994 genocide.

    Agathe Habyarimana has been wanted in Kigali by the Rwandan state prosecutor since 2009 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the Rwandan genocide.

    The massacre was sparked by the death of her husband, whose plane was shot down in the same year.

    The Paris court's reasoning for the decision on Wednesday was not immediately available, but it is binding on Francois Fillon, the French prime minister.

    At the courthouse, Habyarimana said she was "delighted" with the decision and alleged that Rwandan authorities 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 airplane of the President Habyarimana and his counterparts from Burundi must be identified," she said.

    Cyprien Ntaryamira, president of neighbouring Burundi, was among those killed.

    'Asylum rejected'

    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.

    In 2004, France rejected Habyarimana's 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.

    An estimated 500,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide of July 1994

    In Kigali, Rwanda's prosecutor general, Martin Ngoga, said the decision did not surprise the government because Rwanda has never succeeded in any attempt to extradite suspects from France, despite many attempts.

    "The decision not to extradite Mrs Agathe Habyarimana is disappointing, but we will not relent in our efforts to bring genocide suspects to justice," he said.

    "We expect French counterparts to explore other available options, including having Mrs Habyarimana tried for genocide in France, an option that Rwanda does not object to."

    "We also wait to see if the human rights groups that opposed her extradition will call upon France to bring her to trial or whether they will choose to support impunity," said Ngoga.

    A Rwandan government investigation released in January suggested the plane was shot down by Habyarimana's own allies, as an excuse for starting the genocide.

    Rwanda's genocide erupted after an airplane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down 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.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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