Widow of ex-Rwandan leader loses appeal to dismiss genocide probe

By The Rwandan Lawyer

Agathe Kanziga, the widow of Juvénal Habyarimana left Kigali just after the clash of the falcon which was bringing her husband from Dar es Salam to Kigali and and his crew. Her address is known in France so that the prosecution has no need to track her but her trial has delayed for decades to the extent that different remedies she institutes are either rejected or admitted. The recent decision of court of appeal suggests that the court intends to judge her one day, but when after more than two decades of stressful waiting. The present debate strives to assess issues and perspectives surrounding the case file of this former first lady of Rwanda.

The Paris Court of Appeal on Monday rejected an appeal request by the widow of former Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana to end a probe into claims she played a role in the 1994 genocide. Agathe Habyarimana has been under investigation since 2007 for “complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity.She is suspected of being one of the masterminds of the genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 Tutsis in 1994.The request was deemed inadmissible on formal grounds, the source said. “It is not a question of the merits of the case but of legal arguments,” said her lawyer, Philippe Meilhac, on Monday. Agathe Kanziga, the widow of Juvénal Habyarimana, the Hutu president whose assassination on April 6, 1994, triggered the massacres against the Tutsi minority, has been targeted since 2008 by an investigation in France on her role during the genocide, initiated by a complaint from the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR). In 2016, she was placed under the status of assisted witness, an intermediary between a witness and an accused, and has not been questioned since. Now aged 78, she appealed against the probe and requested the judges to dismiss the investigations. They rejected her request in November, arguing that the investigation was “ongoing”. She then appealed.”It is a case in which there has been no new information for five years and no more since her request to dismiss the case last year,” Meilhac said. “It is a deplorable situation because it blocks any possibility of regularizing her administrative situation. Habyarimana, who has lived in France since 1998, has no legal status because France refused to extradite her to Rwanda in 2011, but did not grant her asylum because of suspicions about the role she may have played in one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century. She is often portrayed as one of the leaders of the “Akazu”, the inner circle of Hutu power that, according to her accusers, planned and orchestrated the genocide.

The recent rejection of the appeal request by the widow of former Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana lead legal and political analysts to a number of scenarios into play around this old case-file.

A hidden political hand 

These days where Franco-Rwandan relations are going well, it was inconceivable that the judge would come and spoil the party by declaring fully innocent a suspect wanted by Rwanda. besides among the promises that the French president made to his Rwandan counterpart figure the judicial dossier and a series of undesirable personalities on behalf of Kigali reside there to facilitate the task. As France is a democracy champion, the disturbance of Rwandan political opponents would be badly seen but the maneuver of cooking crimes and require extradition of the suspect is a cynic practice to which Rwandan authorities often resort shamelessly. The recent case of ambassador Gasana Eugene Richard who was object of red notice at Interpol for crimes of rape and sexual harassment overtly manufactured for political reasons as he allegedly committed them two to three years before his dismissal in 2016 when he fought the endless unlimited monarchical candidatures sought by the current leader for the presidency of Rwanda. Luckily, lawyers of this organization discovered the legal trap and rejected the Rwandan application. Among many rwandan politicians who reside on the French soil are  the father Munyeshyaka Wenceslas former chief of the Sainte Famille parish in Kigali city; the tycoon Felicien Kabuga has already been arrested despite his advanced age; the father Marcel Twagirayezu has already paid the price of this policy and the list goes on. 

Aut dedere aut judicare

Various reasons may prevent states on the territory of which a criminal is found from extraditing him or her to the state where the crime was committed or to any other state willing to prosecute the case. The suspect is likely to escape prosecution and enjoy impunity if the authorities of the custodial state are not required to initiate proceedings against him or her. The obligation to extradite or prosecute, now traditionally described by the Latin expression aut dedere aut judicare, is one of the paramount cooperation means designed by states in order to counter this phenomenon and, in particular, to deprive criminals of any safe haven. This obligation is classically understood as requiring the custodial state to prosecute the suspect in case of non-extradition.Even if the judgments handed down in Rwanda often trigger a stir in diplomatic relations with the countries of the West fearing their respect for a fair trial and other guarantees of the good administration of justice given the services the Rwandan army are carrying out in Mozambique to safe-keep financial interests of France where the giant total extracts oil and gas in the regions occupied by jihadists, they may dare to claim the principle after having invented crimes against a good number of political opponents. In the context of fighting impunity of crimes and pretending that French judges did not comply with the principle of reasonable time limit of justice by delaying to try the case on the merits ,they may request the extradition of the ex first lady and other politicians against whom they will manufactured serious crimes.

The qualification of mastermind of genocide

Even if the supposed role of Agathe Kanziga in the planning of genocide has been mediatised by RPF worldwide, the prosecution will hardly find out proofs establishing her precise part in the alleged planning of genocide given that she never voiced out her views vis-a-vis the Tutsi; some of her brothers alleged members of Akazu are not prosecuted or were acquitted by the international justice especially the famous Zigiranyirazo Protais aka ZED ancient powerful governor of Ruhengeri who was found innocent of crimes he was prosecuted and judged for by the ICTR.

To see clearly, the political and diplomatic situation between the country and France has often influenced the pending trials. Thus, when the judge Louis Bruguière emitted international arrest warrants against Rwandan officials who are suspected to have clashed the presidential airplane killing some French nationals who were travelling with the Rwandan and Burundian presidents, the tea towel was burning between the two countries; but to maintain the good relationships as the bilateral diplomacy was improving in particular with the french support of the Rwandan candidacy for the head of the Francophonie, the investigating judges who went to the field reversed the situation and tilted the responsibility on the side of the former Rwandan armed forces even if the Sam 16 missiles came from the arsenal of Ugandan army staff!