Genocide fugitive Félicien Kabuga could not have escaped justice without the help and support of a network of accomplices in African and European governments who facilitated him with documents and means to evade justice for 26 years.
The observation was made by Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza during the United Nations Security Council video-teleconference on International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) from The Hague on Monday.
During the session in which the president of IRMCT, Judge Carmel Agius, presented the Mechanism’s 16th progress report to the Security Council, Amb. Rugwabiza said that Kabuga, who was arrested last month in Paris, France couldn’t have escaped international Justice without the help of certain countries but did not name them.
“It is clear that Kabuga could not have escaped international justice for so long without an extensive network of accomplices, which enabled him to enjoy facilitation from Government institutions in the several African and European countries where he sojourned since 1994,” Rugwabiza said.
“This raises a number of questions which we hope his trial will help answer,” she said, adding that now that he has finally been arrested, the Rwandan government hopes that his trial will start without unnecessary delays.
Amb. Rugwabiza said that the arrest of Kabuga, 87, was a major development for international justice against the masterminds and perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, having managed to escape justice for more than two decades.
“We commend the efforts of the office of Prosecutor Brammertz and the cooperation extended by France law enforcement agencies and others,”
“It is only when Members honor their obligations to extend cooperation to the Office of the Prosecutor, that arrests can be made and brought to justice,” she said.
Kabuga, who was arrested in the northern Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine, where he had been living under a false identity, was the main financier, the principal shareholder and the Chairman of the infamous Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines” (RTLM), which throughout the 100 days of the genocide, was inciting and calling for the killings and extermination of the Tutsi.
While appearing in a French court, Kabuga denied all the charges, including the importation into Rwanda, of tons of machetes which were used by Interahamwe militias and other perpetrators to kill the Tutsi, the targeted group for extermination.
The octogenarian who is set to be transferred to Arusha, Tanzania is fighting the planned relocation, opting to be tried in France.
Rugwabiza said that justice for the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is still an incomplete task with many genocide fugitives still on the run.
“I wish to recall that the Prosecutor General of Rwanda has issued more than 1000 indictments to several UN Member States, including members of this Council, requesting for their cooperation to arrest and prosecute individuals 4 indicted for genocide or transfer them to Rwanda to face justice,”
“Very few countries have responded to these indictments,” she said, adding that the UNSC resolution 1966 (2010), urged all Member States particularly those where genocide fugitives are suspected to be hiding, to further intensify cooperation with and render all necessary assistance to the Mechanism.
She said that there has been little cooperation despite the Council repeating the call, in subsequent resolutions, including most recently in resolution 2422 (2018).
Rigorous Provisions for Early release
For many years, Rwanda has opposed the early release of genocide convicts. Amb. Rugwabiza said that it is important for IRMCT in its efforts to revise grounds for consideration of applications for early release or commutation of sentence, to put into consideration Rwanda’s concerns.
“We note in particular the issuance of a revised Practice Direction to provide guidance on the procedure for the determination of applications for pardon, commutation of sentence, or early release of persons convicted by the Tribunal or by the Mechanism,”
“We also note the important inclusion of the need to consider the views of the associations of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the opinion of the Government of Rwanda prior to granting any future application for early release,” she said.
Rwanda urged the Mechanism to attach rigorous provisions for conditional releases based on stringent and eligibility requirements to be fulfilled before the consideration of any application for early release.
“It is only in doing so, that we can make sure that those released by the Mechanism at the end of their sentence will find it costly to engage in activities propagating genocide denial or ideology in the future,” Rugwabiza said.
Amb. Rugwabiza reiterated the IRMCT concerns expressed in the Prosecutor’s report, that genocide denial and ideology continue to be propagated -something which is highly concerning.
“The Prosecutor’s report notes that efforts to deny, trivialize and minimize the genocide against the Tutsi, to detract attention from the facts of the genocide, are on the rise and being disseminated by genocide perpetrators yet to be brought to justice as well as their sympathizers, which include some government officials from UN Member States,”
“These actions should be unequivocally condemned by this Council,” Rugwabiza noted.
In his report to the council, the president of IRMCT, Judge Agius said that the Mechanism’s judicial workload has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, putting on hold many activities.
He described the arrest of Kabuga as a ‘major breakthrough’, lauding the efforts of Prosecutor Brammertz and his team as well as France for the efforts to finally bring Kabuga to book.
He further thanked those who assisted the Mechanism in confirming the death of another fugitive, Augustin Bizimana, underscoring the the importance of cooperation and trust between member states.
On his part, Brammertz said that they will not rest until the remaining genocide fugitives are arrested or determined to be dead, urging concerned countries to cooperate.