France denies Agathe Habyarimana asylum

KIGALI - A top French court has thrown out the appeal for asylum by the former First Lady Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana. The French court – le Conseil d’Etat, passed its judgement Friday afternoon, a decision that has been welcomed by the Rwandan government, with officials saying it is a ‘wise move’ by a country that is still known for its complicity in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

KIGALI - A top French court has thrown out the appeal for asylum by the former First Lady Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana.

The French court – le Conseil d’Etat, passed its judgement Friday afternoon, a decision that has been welcomed by the Rwandan government, with officials saying it is a ‘wise move’ by a country that is still known for its complicity in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

“It is the right move, but it is not enough. We recognise the fact that she has been denied asylum, but it should not be her alone. There are many more people in her category who still live on French soil,” said Martin Ngoga, the Prosecutor General.

Ngoga said government will continue to do what it has been doing to bring the former first lady to book, but could not specify whether fresh extradition applications will be filed.

“Irrespective of whether the asylum was issued or not, we were going to continue doing our work. But now that they have done so, we hope they will do the same to the many genocide fugitives hiding in France,” Ngoga said.

According to the Prosecution, the action of Mrs Habyarimana asylum provides a ray of hope as the Government in Paris has been ‘non-committal’, making a France a den of Genocide fugitives.

One of the most wanted fugitives responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, she has been closely monitored by a rights organisation - “Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda” (CPCR), which has also filed a lawsuit against her.

CPCR is a European-based organisation advocating for the rights of the 1994 Genocide survivors.

Alain Gauthier, the President of the Paris-based umbrella group, expressed his feelings in an email to The New Times yesterday.

“The decision by the Conseil d’Etat was expected, and we would not have understood if it had not followed the recommendations of the public prosecutor,” said Gauthier.

“Refugee status was not granted to Madame Kanziga. We can only rejoice for this decision.”

“Now, what we ask for is the extradition to Rwanda of Madam Kanziga,” Gauthier said, but quickly notes that chances of that are slim.

“We know that all the earlier extradition requests to Rwanda have been refused by French judges and it would certainly be the same with Kanziga’s case.”

The other option, according to Gauthier, is for the French justice to do its work and agree to try Kanziga as well as all other suspected genocidaires on French soil.

“The victims need justice to prevail.  We will continue, within the CPCR, to do all possible so that justice is done.”
Habyarimana’s battle for refugee status moved to Paris’ State Council after her request for asylum was in January 2007 was turned down by France’s refugee office (OFPRA).

For over the last decade, Habyarimana has crisscrossed Africa, especially the former Zaire (now DRC) and Gabon until she returned to France in 1998, on a Gabonese passport.

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