Arrested at last, after being on the run for more than two decades, Felicien Kabuga, who stands accused of being one of the masterminds behind the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, can be expected to try to delay his trial as long as possible. An appeal against extradition from France, where he was arrested, has already been filed, and he may have an unexpected ally.
One of the richest men in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, Kabuga faces overwhelming evidence identifying him as one of the chief financiers of the genocide, including importation of thousands of machetes, the favoured weapon of the Interahamwe militias, who spearheaded the murders.
Predictably, lawyers for Kabuga have already entered a not guilty plea, and appealed against his extradition to the Tanzanian city of Arusha, where the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was headquartered.
From the point of view of the IRMCT, Kabuga would immediately be transferred to Arusha, and his long overdue trial begun immediately. The appeal will however delay proceedings. Kabuga may also have another deadly ally to thank for further delay, Covid-19, which has restricted international travel.
Groups representing the survivors of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, have called for Kabuga to be tried in Rwanda, where he would answer for his alleged crimes, before his accusers.
In an interview with KTRadio’s Rwanda Beyond The Headlines the chief prosecutor for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), Serge Brammertz expressed sympathy with these demands, but pointed out that as the law stood, this would be unlikely.
“As a principle, I always think that the best place for a genocidaire, a war criminal, or for any criminal, the best place to be prosecuted is where the crime was committed…” but, he added that legally, “the mechanism (IMRCT) is the only competent jurisdiction to handle this case.”
Dr Brammertz went on to say that it would however be up to the United Security Council to change that, if it so wished, so that Kabuga could be tried in Rwanda.
You can hear the interview with the Chief Prosecutor on Rwanda Beyond The Headlines, at the regular hour of 8 pm, KT Radio, 96.7fm.