Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

France: Investigating Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeals Opposes Extradition of Widow of Rwandan Ex-President

(Oct. 4, 2011) On September 28, 2011, the Investigating Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeals issued a decision opposing the extradition of Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of former Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana. Mrs. Habryarimana is sought by the Rwandan authorities, who issued an international arrest warrant against her, for “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” She is suspected of having taken part, in the years 1990 through 1994, in the planning of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. (Avis négatif à l'extradition d'Agathe Habyarimana, LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (Sept. 29, 2011).)

Her husbands' airplane was shot down on April 6, 1994, and she was brought to France by the French military a few days latter. She has since lived in France without any legal residency document. Her request for asylum was rejected based on her alleged involvement in the genocide. Separately she had applied for and had been denied a temporary residence card. She appealed that refusal, and the proceeding is pending before an administrative tribunal. (Id.)

The Paris Court of Appeals decision was based on the principle of legal certainty. The court found that, at the time the facts occurred, Rwanda did not have any provisions punishing genocide or crimes against humanity. These provisions only came into effect in 2004, and criminal laws are not retrospective in effect. (Id.)

The French Code of Criminal Procedure provides that, under the general extradition procedure and in the absence of any other international agreement stating otherwise, when a person sought for extradition has stated to the General Prosecutor that he or she does not consent to the extradition, this person must appear before the investigating chamber of the competent court of appeals. The Chamber either requests additional information or renders an opinion on whether or not the extradition should take place. A negative opinion is binding on the Prime Minister. (Code de Procédure Pénale, art. 696-15, LEGIFRANCE [under “Les codes en vigueur” select Code de Procédure Pénale].)