Rwanda says it is concerned by the delay of the trial of Félicien Kabuga, who was one of the most wanted suspects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, with the view that the slow progress is stalling the justice process.
Rwanda’s concerns were made known to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Monday evening during a session to review the progress report of the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (UNIRMCT).
Rwanda’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Valentine Rugwabiza, said that while the Residual Mechanism has registered good progress in executing its mandate, the delay in the trial, more than a year after Kabuga’s arrest, is sending the wrong message.
“We wish to remind the Council that Felicien Kabuga is one of the masterminds of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and the only genocide fugitive apprehended by the Mechanism since its inception in 2010,”
“After escaping justice for close to 3 decades, 85 years old Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 and transferred to the Hague chamber of the Mechanism in October 2020. Today, more than a year later, his trial is yet to start,” Amb. Rugwabiza said.
Amb. Rugwabiza told the UN Security Council that apart from denying Kabuga’s victims justice, the delay also bears heavily on the performance of the UN Mechanism, which should be evaluated on its ability to deliver on its core judicial mandate.
“The priority of the Government of Rwanda and the priority of justice is and should be that the trial should start,”
“We hope that the next report of the Mechanism to the Security Council will comprise and inform us about the progress with regard to the substance of the trial of Félicien Kabuga instead of detailed explanations about the extended pretrial phases,” Amb. Rugwabiza said.
UNIRMCT speaks out
During the presentation of the report, the UNIRMCT president, Judge Carmel Agius, told the Security Council that, as a result of the favourable performance during the pandemic, the Mechanism has entered a new chapter in its operations.
He pointed out that the core driver of the Mechanism’s activities – its pending judicial caseload – is now limited to appeal proceedings in the pending cases and the trial in the case against Kabuga.
Serge Brammertz, the UN sanctioned judicial body that assumed the remaining work of the two UN war crimes tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, told the council that the trial team filed its pre-trial brief and responded to significant additional litigation initiated by Kabuga’s family members and associated third parties concerning seized assets.
“My Office is ready for and looks forward to the commencement of this trail at the Arusha Branch when ordered by the Trial Chamber,” Brammertz said.
Though no timeline was given, Brammertz said that the start of the Kabuga trial is approaching, promising that justice will be delivered.
“We look forward to this opportunity to achieve more justice in the courtroom for the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda,” Brammertz said.
Still on the run
During the session, Amb. Rugwabiza commended the tireless efforts and work of Prosecutor Brammertz and his office but added that more needs to be done to arrest genocide fugitives still at large in many countries.
“We note with concern that a number of Member States continue to obstruct international justice by refusing to extend cooperation to the Prosecutor’s office,”
“Once again, we call on all Member States to honour their international legal obligations to extend cooperation to the office of the Prosecutor of the Mechanism,”
“Government and people of Rwanda continue to ask ourselves what could possibly be the geostrategic interests of any Member State to side with the perpetrators by assisting them to hide and escape justice for crimes of Genocide they committed in Rwanda,” Amb. Rugwabiza said.
The envoy reminded the council that the crime of Genocide is imprescriptible and that Rwanda will continue the search for justice for the victims and survivors.
Transfer of 9 Nationals to Niger Questioned
During the session, Rwanda questioned the transfer of the 9 Rwandans who were living in a safe house in Arusha to a third country without consulting Kigali on the matter.
“Rwanda is surprised to not have been notified by either the Mechanism or Niger about the transfer of these nationals of Rwanda,”
“We will appreciate clarification from the Principals of the Mechanism, in the appropriate General Assembly Committee, on whether the transfer, settlement, and living costs of the transferred Rwandan nationals- who have been free from any Mechanism proceedings for over a decade- are part of the budget of the Mechanism,” Amb. Rugwabiza said.
“We hope that Niger will exercise its responsibility to ensure that none of the 9 persons use their territory for subversive activities that have contributed to the insecurity and instability of the Great Lakes Region for the past decades,” she added.
Amb. Rugwabiza said that there is available evidence, in their criminal records, that some of them have been engaging in subversive activities even after their acquittal by the former ICTR.