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Félicien Kabuga fit to be tried by a UN Tribunal

AA / Kigali / James Tasamba

A suspected financier of the 1994 genocide against ethnic Tutsi in Rwanda is fit to stand trial in The Hague, a UN court has ruled in a ruling hailed by genocide survivors.

The court said the trial should start “as soon as possible”, rejecting a request by Félicien Kabuga’s lawyers to halt the proceedings for health reasons.

“The defense has not established that Kabuga is currently unfit to stand trial,” said the judgment of the International Mechanism for Residual Functions of Criminal Tribunals (MICT), also known as “The Mechanism”, on Monday.

Naphtal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of IBUKA, the umbrella organization of Rwandan genocide survivors, said the gravity of the charges made it necessary to speed up the trial.

“Kabuga has reached old age and likely has health issues, but in the interests of justice it is important that his trial can be completed while he is alive,” Ahishakiye said.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Ahishakiye referred to the case of Protais Mpiranya, a former fugitive involved in the Rwandan genocide, who reportedly died in Zimbabwe in October 2006 before being tried.

The remains of the former commander of Rwanda’s presidential guard during the genocide have been exhumed at Granville Cemetery, Harare, following a request by UN investigators to the Zimbabwean government to take DNA samples.

His identity was confirmed by DNA analysis in May, the court heard.

UN investigators are said to have found and identified Mpiranya’s grave with the help of a decisive lead: the hand drawing of the tombstone of Protais Mpiranya, found on a confiscated computer.

Kabuga is accused of having played a role in the creation of the notorious “Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines”, which incited to kill the Tutsi population.

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He was indicted in August 1998 by the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), now dissolved, and an international arrest warrant was issued for him the following year.

He is being prosecuted on multiple counts, including the crime of genocide, complicity in genocide and other crimes against humanity, under an amended indictment filed in March 2021.

The 87-year-old man is currently detained in The Hague awaiting trial before the International Mechanism for the Residual Functions of Criminal Tribunals (MICT) which replaced the ICTR.

The court said Kabuga needed “24-hour nursing care” and was being held in a hospital unit in the prison.

The judges admitted that it had not been easy to determine Kabuga’s fitness to appear and recommended continued monitoring of his condition by independent medical experts.

Kabuga was arrested in Paris in May 2020 after 26 years on the run.

The Rwandan genocide, which claimed the lives of more than a million people, was carried out by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority after the deaths of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira in a plane crash on April 6, 1994.

*Translated from English by Mourad Belhaj

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