Rwanda: Suspected Genocide funder Felicien Kabuga’s trial to be held in Arusha

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Mr Kabuga, in his 80s, was arrested in May at his home outside Paris after 26 years on the run; Courtesy Photo

The French Cour de Cassation on Wednesday, September 29, ruled that suspected genocide mastermind Félicien Kabuga be transferred from France to the custody of the Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (RMICT), in Arusha, Tanzania, for trial.

This is the third, and final decision on the transfer of Kabuga, who was arrested in the French capital Paris in May, putting a dramatic end to a 25 year search for the man believed to have funded the Genocide.

Some 800,000 people were killed in the 1994 genocide.

Mr Kabuga is alleged to have funnelled money to militia groups as chairman of the national defense fund. He denies all the charges and his lawyers had argued that he was too frail to be sent to face trial at the UN tribunal in the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

Kabuga’s transfer was received with delight by Ibuka President, Etienne Nsanzimana. Ibuka is the umbrella body bringing together Genocide survivors’ organizations.

“This is a first victory. Now it’s time for international justice to try him and put an end to all these years of shameful impunity.” Nsanzimana said.

According to Richard Gisagara, a Rwandan lawyer based in France who has closely followed the case, Kabuga has exhausted all his options and he is supposed to be transferred to the UN Tribunal.

However, Gisagara noted, Kabuga can still seize the European Court of Human Rights but this appeal would not halt the process just initiated by the ruling in the French court.

Whatever happens now onwards, Kabuga who opposed his extradition – and wanted to be tried only in France – has now exhausted the process on extradition in French courts.

In June, after rejecting all of Kabuga’s pleas the Paris Court of Appeal ruled that he be handed over to the Mechanism. That is when he appeal to another court, the Cour de Cassation.

Towards the end of May, William Sekule, the duty judge at the Arusha branch of the Mechanism ruled that Kabuga will be transferred to Arusha, once conditions – the Covid-19 travel restrictions at the time – allow.

At the time, the Mechanism’s prosecutor had filed an urgent motion seeking the temporary transfer of Kabuga to The Hague citing the ongoing Covid-19 crisis which has temporarily halted air travel.

Kabuga who was indicted by the now-defunct United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1997 made his first court appearance in the Paris Court of Appeal, on May 20.

He was indicted on seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination, all in relation to crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in Rwanda.

What is he accused of?

Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, Mr Kabuga is accused of financing the Rwandan genocide. He is alleged to have backed and armed ethnic Hutu militias who slaughtered about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

He set up the notorious Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), a Rwandan broadcaster that actively encouraged people to search out and kill anyone ethnic Tutsis.

In 1997 he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on seven counts including genocide and crimes against humanity.

How did he evade capture for so long?

Police say Mr Kabuga used 28 aliases. While on the run, he is alleged to have stayed in various countries in East Africa, including Kenya, where he and his family had business interests.

The French public prosecutor’s office said he had been living under a false identity with the complicity of his children.
He was finally detained in a dawn raid on 16 May in the Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine.

What is the court in Arusha?

In the months that followed the genocide, the UN Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, northern Tanzania.
It was set up to judge the ringleaders of the genocide and more than 60 people were sentenced.

That court was formally closed in 2015 and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) took over its mission to find the last genocidaires. It has no police force, nor powers of arrest, instead relying on national governments to act on its behalf.

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