Kabuga to be tried for Rwanda genocide in Arusha, judge rules

Friday, May 29th, 2020 00:00 |
A French Gendarme stands guard next to a prison van transporting Felicien Kabuga, one of the last key fugitives wanted over the 1994 Rwandan genocide, at the Paris court. Photo/AFP/File

The Hague, Thursday

The alleged financier of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, arrested this month in France after 26 years on the run, will be transferred to the war crimes tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, once conditions allow it, a judge in The Hague has ruled.

The judge was replying to a request for Felicien Kabuga to be temporarily transferred to The Hague given travel restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kabuga has denied playing a role in the massacres. “All of this is lies. I have not killed any Tutsis. I was working with them,” he told a French court during a bail hearing.

The 84-year-old businessman was arrested earlier this month in a suburb in Paris after 26 years on the run.

Hutu militia

He is alleged to have backed and armed ethnic Hutu militias who slaughtered about 800,000 people in 1994.

Over 100 days they targeted members of the minority Tutsi community and their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

Kabuga also founded and funded the notorious Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), a Rwandan broadcaster that actively encouraged people to search out and kill anyone who was from the Tutsi ethnic group.

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

The tribunal, headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, formally closed in 2015 and its duties were transferred to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), based in The Hague that handles outstanding war crimes cases and is pressing for Kabuga’s extradition. However, the MICT has a branch in Arusha. 

His lawyers argue that Kabuga, who was detained in a dawn raid on May 16 in the suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine where he had been living under a false identity, should be tried in France instead of being transferred.

The court rejected a request to release Mr Kabuga on the grounds of age and ill health as prosecutors said the octogenarian was a flight risk. It will rule on the extradition request on  June 3.

Whilst on the run Kabuga is alleged to have stayed in many countries in East Africa, including Kenya, where he and his family had business interests. The search is still on for six other Rwandans accused of genocide.

Dozens of Hutus were convicted for their role in the killings by the ICTR and hundreds of thousands more faced trial in community courts in Rwanda.

Kabuga is alleged to have used his wealth and influence to funnel money to militia groups as chairman of the Fonds de Defense Nationale (FDN) fund.

At his first appearance in public, on May 20 before a French court, Kabuga said he wanted to be tried in France. -Agencies

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