The UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) has today heard the opening statements in the case of the Prosecutor versus suspected Rwandan key financier and mastermind of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Félicien Kabuga.
The case happened in absentia where Kabuga was said to be safe and sound, but refused to either come to the hearing, or to follow the hearing online.
In previous pre-hearing sessions, Kabuga had filed a plea asking to have his defence team changed and subsequently see his case suspended until he finds the lawyer he wanted.
The court agreed that he had that right to change the lawyer but ruled that the hearing would proceed in the meantime.
Kabuga, a former tycoon in Rwanda, is charged with genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and persecution on political grounds, extermination, and murder as crimes against humanity, committed during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi
Kabuga, founder and President of the Comité d’Initiative of Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) radio, operated it with others in a manner that furthered hatred and violence against Tutsi and others disseminated an anti-Tutsi message with the goal to eliminate them.
The Prosecution tabled charges and evidence around these two aspects of the case showing how Kabuga used his wealth (over $1 million in bank account by 1994), influence and connections of former president Juvenal Habyarimana, to push the anti-Tutsi agenda.
The prosecutor said that by the fact that Kabuga stands trial after 28 years of evading justice, his case trial will be crucial in showing how genocide was committed and serving justice to him will bring light to a global concern and history of genocide in Rwanda.
On facts, the prosecutor showed that Kabuga was as a wealthy influential person. He said that even if he didn’t need to pick a machete or gun to kill, he used his influence and radio (radio RTLM) to call for killings and funding to finance training and equip militias; purchase, transportation and distribution of weapons, way before the genocide.
Prosecution evidence showed this was done in three key areas of Rwanda- in Muhima and Kimironko in Kigali city and in Gisenyi near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo- DRC, precisely Goma.
For instance at his Muhima building prosecution said it served as Headquarter (HQ) and meeting point for Impunzamigambi (a militia and anti-Tutsi group) which had moved from Byumba where Kabuga hails from.
Other militia were also hosted at Kabuga’s home in Kimironko. It is estimated that Kabuga sponsored 50,000 militia. The prosecution said it has got 4 witnesses among the militia who were at Kimironko camp.
In Gisenyi, prosecution showed that it was an office for the Mouvement Republicain Nationale de Development (MRND), the then ruling party.
It is said that he distributed funds and weapons, illegally curtailed into Rwanda against the arms convention.
The Tutsi that were killed in Gisenyi under Kabuga’s sponsorship were dumped in a mass grave near Meridien. It is alleged that he acted in partnership with Bernard Munyagishari, Col Nsengiyumva and one Samvura, the president of Impunzamigambi in Gisenyi.
The prosecution said that the armed groups who carried killings in Gisenyi proceeded to Bisesero in Karongi district to finish the last stand of resistance of Tutsi against the genocidal regime and came back to report to Kabuga in Gisenyi after”job all done.”
The case will proceed on this September 30 at the Hague.