Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana

02.05.2016 ( Last modified: 27.09.2016 )
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Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana was born in 1942 in Karago in Gisenyi prefecture, current Western Province, in Rwanda. Agathe Habyarimana, born Kanziga, was never a famous figure until the 1990s. As a former teacher, she was rather quiet and has evolved in the shadow of her husband, content to do anything purely ceremonial.

According to several sources, it was during the civil war between 1990 and 1994, when she has played an important role in the state affairs through Akazu, the circle limited to the unofficial powers composed of civilians and soldiers very close to Juvenal Habyarimana. It was in this circle, a hideout of extremists opposed to any negotiations with the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), genocide was conceived, developed and implemented.

The Rwandan genocide took place from 6 April to 4 July 1994. The UN estimates that some 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during these three months.

On 6 April 1994 during landing in Kigali, the Falcon carrying Juvenal Habyarimana, President of the Republic of Rwanda since 5 July 1973 to 6 April 1994, was shot down by surface to air missiles. Cyprien Ntaryamira, the then Head of State and the Burundian President, who was also present in the plane, died instantly. This event is generally regarded as the trigger of the Rwandan genocide.

On 9 April 1994, Agathe Habyarimana was evacuated to Paris by French soldiers during Operation Amaryllis which lasted from 8 to 14 April 1994. After a long layover in Bangui, she arrived in Paris on 17 April 1994. She spent one week at a hotel before going to occupy a family apartment, on avenue Mozart in the 16th district.

At that time she was received by officials of the French Foreign Ministry, and her safety was ensured by the French police. The first stay in France was short-lived. In September, she moved to Libreville, Gabon, at the invitation of Omar Bongo Ondimba, and then Gbadolite in Zaire, where Mobutu held the funeral of her husband. Equipped with a diplomatic passport issued by Zairians, she went to Kenya.

Agathe Habyarimana went back to Zaire in late 1995, fearing the “threat of the RPF.” In April 1997, shortly before the fall of Mobutu, she settled in Gabon, where she was granted a diplomatic passport under a false name. In response to new threats from the RPF, according to the person concerned, she left Libreville and smuggled into France where she currently resides with illegal status.

Her asylum application, filed in January 2004, was rejected by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) on 4 January 2007.

After thirteen years of residence in France, her appeal was rejected on 15 February 2007 by the Refugee Appeals Commission (CRR, which has become the National Court of asylum), which emphasised her alleged role in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. For the CRR, there were serious reasons for considering that she should have participated “as instigator or accomplice” to the “crime of genocide” according to the words used in the decision. She was therefore ineligible for the protection under the Geneva Convention and subsidiary protection. CRR also believed that her statements, “incredible, […] must be regarded as reflecting her desire to conceal the activities that were actually her own during the period of preparation, planning and execution of the genocide.”

This decision was confirmed on 16 October 2009 by the Council of State. The authority rejected her appeal, estimating that there were “serious reasons for considering” that she could be involved “as instigator or accomplice” in the crime of genocide”. From that decision she could be deported, although this would be unlikely.

Agathe Habyarimana is frequently presented as a prominent member of the Akazu, the first circle of Hutu power that planned and implemented the genocide. Her brother, Protais Zigiranyirazo, nicknamed “Mr. Z”, governor of Ruhengeri, was presented by the prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as the main figure of the presidential circle who planned the genocide. He was convicted at first instance to 20 years in prison, and acquitted on appeal, the sentence having been annulled on procedural grounds.

In October 2009, Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant against Agathe Habyarimana for participation and incitement to genocide.


legal procedure

In October 2009, Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant against Agathe Habyarimana for participation and incitement to genocide.

Agathe Habyarimana was arrested on Tuesday 2 March 2010 at Concourronnes in Essonne, near Paris, shortly before 8 o’clock, based on the warrant. She was released soon after and placed on probation by the prosecutor’s office in Paris. She has then been forbidden to leave French territory and obliged to appear once a month to the police.

She was heard as a witness on 9 March 2010 for three hours by the criminal investigation section of the French police force, said her lawyer Philippe Meilhac.

The international arrest warrant against her is intended for the counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to the commission of genocide and crimes against humanity. The facts alleged against her in Kigali spanned from 1 October 1990, when the attack by the RPF rebellion against the Habyarimana regime started, to 9 April 1994, when Agathe Habyarimana evacuated to France.

Upon the filing of a formal request for extradition from Kigali, the investigating chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris has to give a ruling. The likelihood of her extradition to Rwanda, however, is low. Indeed, although the French justice has authorized the extradition of several Rwandans suspected of involvement in the genocide to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, it objected to three requests for extradition of Rwandan high officials for the purpose of their trials by national courts. The Court of Cassation, the highest French judicial authority, ruled that the Rwandan courts did not meet international standards, including the guarantee of a “fair trial” and access to an independent judiciary.

However, if it is impossible for France to meet the demand for extradition of Agathe Habyarimana, the French justice could take her to the court by itself. Indeed, the article 689-11 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure (created by Law No. 2010-930 of 9 August 2010 adapting the criminal law to the establishment of the International Criminal Court) provides for universal jurisdiction of France for crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC, “[…] if the acts are punished by the laws of the State where they are committed or if that State or the State of his nationality is a party […]” (art.689-11 paragraph 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) to the Rome Statute. In Kigali, Jean Bosco Mutangana, head of the unit specializing in the search of Rwandan genocide suspects abroad, leaves the door open to a trial in France, but stresses that “priority is that she will be tried in Rwanda since the crimes were committed against the Rwandan people.”

In addition, following a complaint by the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), an investigation was opened in November 2007 in France against Agathe Habyarimana for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. According to the counsel for the CPCR, Michel Laval, this procedure was “stalled” and the arrest showed that “finally, it seems to consider her case more carefully.” However, the CPCR campaigns for the trial of the widow of former Rwandan president in Paris.

On 28 September 2011 the court of appeal of Paris rejected Rwanda extradition request.



Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.


In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.


In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.


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