French Prosecutor points out limitations in Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana’s case

On 12 March 2024 at 02:59

The French public prosecutor has announced that the French legal system is unable to pursue Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana for alleged crimes related to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

During a press conference on March 11, 2024, as part of his four-day working visit to Rwanda, Jean-François Ricard, the Head of French National Anti-Terrorism Prosecution Office disclosed that Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, the wife of the former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, residing illegally in France, cannot be prosecuted or extradited to Rwanda for crimes attributed to her, as they occurred before the genocide.

Ricard emphasized the complex administrative situation she faces, stating that, under French administrative law, she cannot benefit from refugee status, which was denied to her. However, like others in a similar predicament, she cannot be expelled from French territory.

He explained, "We have a complicated case because, as I mentioned, we are only competent for events postdating the genocide directly from the genocide. We, French judges are not competent for events preceding the genocide, for example, those who may have prepared it."

Agathe Kanziga was involved in the inner circle of the "zero network" that orchestrated the Genocide against the Tutsi. Despite this, France claims there is no evidence to press charges against her. Ricard stated that the prosecutor’s office would initiate a new investigation to delve deeper into the Kanziga case and present it before the court.

"I can tell you that the prosecution I am heading, on my instructions, asked the investigating judges to follow this case, and new investigations will be carried out to verify everything we could do. Every possible effort will be made. It is a clear commitment that we took," he underscored.

Ricard refrained from commenting on why Agathe Kanziga cannot obtain asylum or be extradited to Rwanda. However, the French ambassador to Rwanda, Antoine Anfré, revealed in late 2023 that the entire Habyarimana family had been transferred to France on the orders of then-French President François Mitterrand.

"Effectively, Agatha has no status in France; it is by the decision of the president of the republic at the time, François Mitterrand, that she was evacuated, in the very beginning with members of her family. She lives in a Parisian suburb, Les Couronnes, she has no status. At one point, she is neither regularizable nor expellable," Ambassador Anfré stated.

He added, "Currently, there is no judicial procedure against Agathe Habyarimana, mainly because there is no concrete evidence, real evidence that would involve Agatha, despite all we know or imagine. It’s the very principle of the law. I often share your feeling of regret because I frequently face situations where one is convinced of someone’s guilt without having the means to prove it. It’s a sad reality, but that’s how the law works. I think we should not dwell on these cases because otherwise, we risk leaning towards a justice guided by emotion rather than by law."

Discussions between French prosecutor Jean-François Ricard, Rwandan Prosecutor General Havugiyaremye Aimable, and ICTR prosecutor Serge Brammertz have resulted in an agreement to continue sharing evidence on cases of various individuals suspected of genocide crimes. This aims to increase the number of prosecutions and ensure cases with sufficient evidence.

France asserts that it is making every effort to bring to justice anyone suspected of committing Genocide against the Tutsi residing on its territory.

To date, the Rwandan prosecutor’s office has issued 1,149 arrest warrants against genocide suspects in different countries.