The French Court of Cassation upholds extradition order of Félicien Kabuga, a top sponsor of the Rwanda genocide of 1994. He is to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
Félicien Kabuga, 85, was once regarded as the richest man in Rwanda having made a fortune from his tea estate business. He is alleged to have been involved by sponsoring the militia group in the Rwanda genocide of 1994. While a multimillionaire, Kabuga was closely associated with Juvénal Habyarimana’s MRND party and the Akazu, an informational group of Hutu militants from northern Rwanda.
It is also widely reported that Kabuga was involved in the founding of the RTLM, a Rwandan radio show and the Kangura magazine that are alleged to have acted as the media outlet for hate speech against the Tutsis. Kabuga is claimed to have publicly defined and defended the purpose of the RTLM as for the defence of Hutu power. Moreover, between 1993 and 1994, Kabuga was noted to have imported over 500,000 machetes into Rwanda – believed to arm Hutu militants.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Indictments So Far
The ICTR prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and Hassan Jallow indicted Kabuga in 1998 and 2004 respectively on five counts of crimes of genocide and two counts of crime against humanity, including conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide in itself, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, namely persecution and extermination as a crime against humanity.
According to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), Félicien Kabuga, together with certain other persons, agreed to plan, create and fund a militant group known as Kabuga’s Interahamwe in Kimironko Sector, Kigali, the purpose of which was to further ethnic hatred between the Hutus and Tutsis in Kimironko sector with the goal of committing genocide against persons identified as Tutsis.” Kabuga is accused of having “planned or intended the killings of persons identified as Tutsis by his Interahamwe, or he knew that they were committing these killings between April and July 1994 in different locations”. The indictment also mentions that he did not take any measures to prevent these killings although he had the power to use his influence and financial means to do so. It further “alleges that the radio station RTLM, founded by Kabuga, directly and publicly incited the commission of genocide through broadcasts that expressly identified persons as Tutsis, provided their locations, described them as the enemy, and called for their elimination.
Kabuga’s Arrest and the French Cour de Cassation’s Extradition Order
On the 16th of May 2020, Kabuga was arrested in Asnières-sur-Seine, a suburb outside Paris by the French police after having been on the run for 26 years. His arrest was so crucial that the United States Department of Justice issued a $5 million bounty for him. He had lived under a false name throughout the time. He outwitted prosecutors of the Rwandan genocide tribunal for more than two-and-a-half decades by using 28 aliases and powerful connections across two continents to evade capture. On the 3rd of June 2020, a Parisian court approved the handover of Kabuga to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This was appealed.
On the 30th of September 2020, the French Cour de Cassation upheld the decision of the lower court and ordered the relevant authorities to extradite Kabuga. Kabuga’s lawyers appealed the lower court ruling stating that they should try Kabuga at a U.N. court based in Arusha, Tanzania as opposed to the ICC where there is the scope of bias against him. The team of lawyers also stated that Kabuga’s extradition should be reconsidered based on the fact of his age and his deteriorating health. The Court of Cassation, however, disagreed and in a short re-pronouncement held that there was no legal or medical obstacle to transfer Kabuga to Arusha.
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