France’s top appeals court has ruled that alleged Rwandan genocide financier Félicien Kabuga should be transferred to a UN tribunal in Tanzania to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Kabuga, arrested near Paris in May after 25 years on the run, has asked to face justice in France. But the Court of Cassation ruled there was no legal or medical obstacle to implementing an international warrant for Kabuga’s transfer to the Arusha-based tribunal.
Felicien Kabuga, 87, allegedly financed and helped orchestrate the murder of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. He evaded justice for 25 years until he was caught outside Paris earlier this year. He will face a UN tribunal.
He is accused of bankrolling and importing huge numbers of machetes for ethnic Hutu militias who killed some hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda during a 100-day period in 1994.
Prosecutors accuse Kabuga of chairing a radio station that helped orchestrate the genocide, as well as working to create and fund a genocidal militia in the capital, Kigali. He was a wealthy businessman at the time.
He has denounced the charges, including genocide and incitement to commit genocide, as “lies”.
In a statement, France’s Cour de Cassation said it “considers that the investigating chamber was able to consider correctly that there was no legal or medical obstacle to the execution of the arrest warrant transfer order to the United Nations detention centre in Arusha, Tanzania.”
He will now stand trial at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) based in Arusha, Tanzania. The MICT took charge of prosecuting Rwandan genocide suspects after the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) formally closed in 2015.
In their submission, his lawyers argued that Kabuga’s health was too frail for him to be transferred to Tanzania, particularly during a dangerous pandemic.
They also argued that French law violated the constitution by failing to provide for a thorough examination of international arrest warrants.
The Cour de Cassation’s ruling upholds one by a lower court on June 3 that Kabuga be extradited, ruling that his health was not “incompatible” with a transfer to a UN tribunal.
Who is Félicien Kabuga?
Considered the richest man in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide
Made his fortune from tea in the 1970s and ventured into many other sectors at home and abroad
Was close to the ruling MRND party – and related by marriage to President Juvénal Habyarimana, whose death triggered the genocide
Accused of being the top sponsor of the genocide plan and using his business and premises to organise and fund the killing
The main owner of the private radio station RTLM that was accused of inciting ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis
The United States had offered a reward of $5m (£4.1m) for information leading to his arrest
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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.
What happened in court?
Mr Kabuga’s lawyers argued that their client should not be transferred to Tanzania for health reasons, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
They also said that the appeals court had violated the constitution by failing to provide a thorough examination of international arrest warrants.
But these arguments were dismissed by the court.
The extradition ruling upheld one by a lower court on 3 June that Mr Kabuga’s health was not “incompatible” with a transfer to a UN tribunal.
According to the court, Mr Kabuga is really 85 but says he is 87.
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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