2 min 16Approximate reading time

PARIS, January 24 2007 (FH) - Agathe Kanziga, the wife of the late President of Rwanda Juvénal Habyarimana is to appear next Thursday before the Refugee Appeals Board (RAB) after the refusal of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) to grant her the status of refugee. The RAB will communicate its decision within three weeks. In case the Board confirms the rejection of her case, Mrs. Kanziga has the possibility to appeal to the council of State, the highest administrative body in France. According to her attorneys, however, she has decided to file another demand for asylum in Canada. Her request to appear before the RAB was filed on July 10 2006, that is before the OFPRA had issued its decision as called by the procedure. « When the administration doesn’t answer, you are faced with an implicit refusal », Mr. Philippe Meilhac, one of her attorneys, has told Hirondelle to account for their filing a request to the Board of Appeals without waiting for the answer of the OFPRA first. Eventually, the RAB, which depends on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued a negative decision on January 4 2007. The status of refugee can be denied on grounds of « exclusion clauses » which applied in the case of Agathe Kanziga because « there are serious reasons to believe that this person has committed deeds of such kind that she is unworthy of being granted these statuses », these deeds are genocide crimes and the violation of the Geneva conventions. The OFPRA, which has examined 42 578 applications in 2005 and accepted 8.2% of them, had the choice to recommend her expulsion. They chose not to. « The OFPRA judges that there are risks upon her return », according to Mr. Meilhac. These risks, that the applicant has to establish, consist notably in the existence of death penalty in the Rwandan criminal code. The OFPRA, created on July 25 1952, is in charge of « insuring the effective enforcement of international conventions, agreements or settlements pertaining to the protection of refugees ». The organization was seized by the wife of the deceased president Habyarimana in July 2004, though she is known to have been living in France since at least 1998. For six years, the widow has filed no demand. She preferred, according to Mr. Meilhac, to let « her children file their asylum demands first », all of them would have been accepted. Furthermore, « she took her status of refugee for granted. She has never been told she wasn’t welcomed », her French attorney has added. Agathe Kanziga was evacuated via Bangui by the French forces on April 9 1994, three days after her husband died in the attack against his plane. After a short stay in France, she returned to Africa in order to organize her husband’s funeral. She stayed on the continent, notably in Gabon, until 1998 when she settled back in Paris, first in the 16th arrondissement and then in the suburbs. The Refugee Appeals Board, set up in 1952 as well, depends on the State Council. In 2005, the RAB cancelled 15.5 % of the OFPRA’s rejection decisions. During the hearing of January 25, a delegate from the OFPRA will explain the reasons of the refusal issued on January 4 2007 to the presiding judge and his two assistants, among which a delegate of the High Commissionership for Refugees (HCR). The watchdog of the Appeals Board, who is « supposed to have a neutral look on the case », the CRR has explained, will formulate a personal opinion. The appelant, Agathe Kanziga, will then be called to answer questions. SM/PB/MG © Hirondelle News Agency