France not to extradite Rwanda ex-president's widow

28th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A French appeals court on Wednesday rejected a Rwandan request to extradite alleged mass-killing mastermind Agathe Habyarimana, widow of the Rwandan president whose killing sparked the 1994 genocide.

Juvenal Habyarimana's widow, who has lived in France for over 15 years, was accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the massacre of 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, in just 100 days.

"I'm relieved, I've always had faith in the French justice system," Habyarimana said after the judge's decision.

She was briefly arrested under a Rwandan-requested international arrest warrant in France in March 2010, a few days after a visit by Nicolas Sarkozy to Kigali, the first by a French president since the genocide.

Habyarimana, 69, is accused of being a key member of the "akazu" inner circle that planned and implemented the killings which began after her husband's plane was shot down on April 6, 1994.

The former first lady, accused of being one of the brains behind the genocide and of being more hardline than her husband, still faces a 2008 civil suit for alleged involvement in the genocide brought by a French Rwandan rights collective.

"The appeal court's decision will be a problem for the outcome of that procedure," said Habyarimana's lawyer, Philippe Meilhac.

"We can't stay like this forever. The very serious accusations against Mrs Habyarimana are old and completely denied by Mrs Habyarimana," he said.

Habyarimana has lived in France since she escaped Rwanda in 1994. She is awaiting a court ruling on her appeal against a decision to refuse her a French residency permit, meaning she is currently in France without any legal status.

Kigali authorities have accused Paris of not doing enough to arrest, detain and extradite genocide suspects. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty and so requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

© 2011 AFP

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