Rwanda - France: French Court Renders Controversial Judgment on Rwandan First Lady Agathe Habyarimana's Request for Case Dismissal

President Juvenal Habyarimana, First Lady Agathe, and officials celebrating 50th Birthday at Residence in 1986

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Mrs Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of the former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, has been under investigation by French courts for "complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity", since 2017. Accused in France of being one of the top leaders during the 1990-1994 Rwandan civil war and genocide, she has requested the dismissal of the case for the lack of evidences and merit. On Monday August 30, 2021, a French Court rejected the request for dismissal. The Court’s rejection was based on technicalities, not on actual facts. After the verdict,  questions remain on why the French judicial system has been focusing on such a case with questionable merits, when no one, so far, has been held criminally and civilly accountable, for the assasination of Presidents Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, their close collaborators, as well as French crew members.

A Controversial Case.

Mrs. Agathe Habyarimana, 78, has lived in France since 1998. Her husband Juvenal Habyarimana, then President of Rwanda along with Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, their top aides and a French airline crew were assassinated on April 6, 1994 when their plane was allegedly shot down by the then rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) , now ruling Rwanda  (See Here on AfroAmerica Network:  Kagame Assassinated Presidents Habyarimana and Ntaryamira, Testifies Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa For French Prosecutors .  and   (See AfroAmerica Network: Rwanda: Update on Kidnapped Alfred Nkubili and on Egide Gatera, Purported Transporters of Missiles Used in 1994 Assassination of Rwanda and Burundi Presidents).

The assassination of the presidents and the massacres that followed set off a regional humanitarian catastrophe whose consequences are felt 27 years later. Based on estimates from the NGOs, experts, and, most importantly, the United Nations, the assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira has led to more than 7 million deaths, so far.

The investigations leading to Mrs. Agathe Habyarimana's case were launched in 2008 after a French-based victims' association, the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda (CPCR), allegedly close to and funded by the current Rwandan government,  filed a legal complaint against Mrs Agathes Habyarimana, accusing her of being  one of the top political and military leaders of the country during the 1994 killings of hundeds of thousand ethnic Tutsis during the Rwandan civil war.

Her latest case has been in front of the French courts since 2017. Since then, she has appeared before the courts multiple times to answer the allegations and has requested the dismissal of the case, for lack of merit and evidences.

Verdict on Technicalities, not on Substance, of a Politically Motivated Case

Following the verdict, Philip Meilhac, Mrs Agathe Habyarimana's lawyer dismissed the ruling arguing that the French court seems to seek above all to avoid ruling on the merits and focusing on legal quibbles when the case is "empty of evidence".

"I have the impression that the criminal justice system is playing the neither-nor game: not indicting because there are no elements that can justify it and refusing to acquit, even though the case should lead there," the lawyer of the former Rwandan first Lady said. The lawyer added that, in the coming months, he plans to appeal the case in front of the upper court and re-file a request for acquittal.

For the lawyer and most observers, the case has become more political, especially following the latest visit of the Rwandan dictator to France and the visit of the French President to Rwanda on May 26-27, 2021( See AfroAmerica Network: France-Rwanda: Was Emmanuel Macron visit to Paul Kagame in Rwanda about Mozambique?.)

In a recent statement, the members of the family of Habyarimana, mostly based in France, have denounced the lack of justice in France and the politics behind the case against Mrs Agathe Habyarimana.  It was said in the statement:
"This is also why even the attack of April 6, 1994  has deliberately become a matter of no importance for some. Appallingly, despite the fact that the attack, in which two sitting heads of state, namely President Juvénal Habyarimana and President Cyprien Ntaryamira, their close collaborators, as well as French crew members, has been widely recognized as the trigger of the Rwandan genocide, those responsible for this terrorist act have not been prosecuted." the family members said in a public statement titled "Call for Justice for Mrs Agathe Habyarimana"

The family also rejected the accusations arguing that there is an active insidious propaganda against Mrs Agathes Habyarimana.

"The conspirators behind this disparaging propaganda wittingly forget that no court, and even less, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has ever accused Mrs. Agathe Kanziga of any crime whatsoever.

It is of public knownedge that, above all, our mother, Mrs Agathe Kanziga, has never assumed a political role or been politically involved in government or political matters. In fact, she never held a public office, and since her marriage in 1963, she has solely remained a housewife. The organization and leadership of alleged secret meetings, mischievously attributed to her by the conspirators, are a pure fabrication."

What is Next?

With the verdict two major questions remain:  what is next in Mrs Agathe Habyarimana's case and why no one, so far, has been held criminally and civilly accountable, for the assasination of Presidents Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, their close collaborators, as well as French crew members.



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