The umbrella of genocide survivors’ associations (IBUKA) has expressed deep concern as regards the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT)’s failure to meet its core mandate of bringing justice to victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
The remarks were made on August 11, 2023, in the organization’s official statement in response to the IRMCT appeals judges’ decision on Monday, August 7, to indefinitely halt Félicien Kabuga’s trial on grounds of alleged illness.
Kabuga is accused of several counts of committing genocide and as an alleged financier and supporter of the genocide that claimed over one million lives and has been on trial since 2020.
The organization said the UN Appeals Court decision undermines the pursuit of justice sought over the years and that genocide survivors and victims’ families deserve nothing less than a transparent and efficient legal process that upholds the principles of justice.
“IBUKA recognizes the complexities of balancing legal proceedings with humanitarian considerations. Nevertheless, it calls on the IRMCT and the international community to ensure that the temporary suspension does not inadvertently dilute the pursuit of justice for the premeditated, heinous, and serious crimes committed against Tutsi in 1994.
The organization said though it acknowledges the importance of addressing the health and well-being of the accused, especially in cases involving elderly and medically compromised individuals, justice must not be compromised or delayed at the expense of the victims’ rights to truth, accountability, and a fair trial.
“The survivors have waited for KABUGA’s case justice for nearly three decades, and the pause in the legal process was not balanced with the urgency of ensuring that justice is successfully served,” IBUKA said in a statement.
IBUKA highlighted that the IRMCT move on the Kabuga case has ‘deliberately ignored’ that victims and survivors of the crimes that Kabuga is charged for, have waited long to see justice being delivered and Kabuga’s fitness to stand trial is a mere excuse and a leaving example of a double standing for not mentioning open discrimination at the detriment of both victims and survivors.
IBUKA called upon genocide survivors, women, and men of goodwill across the world to review the necessary lawful, political, diplomatic, and judicial measures to safeguard survivors’ fundamental rights at the detriment of judicial irresponsibility where applicable.
“This is the imperative way to prevent genocide across the world and drastically prevent further and similar court decisions and related promotion of impunity in the future,” IBUKA President Dr. Philibert Gakwenzire said.
On 6 June 2023, the Trial Chamber found, by majority, that Kabuga is not fit to stand trial and that it is very unlikely that he would regain fitness in the future. The Trial Chamber decided, by the majority, to continue the proceedings against Kabuga in accordance with an “alternative finding procedure that resembles a trial as closely as possible, but without the possibility of a conviction”.
Both parties appealed against the Trial Chamber’s decision. The Prosecution appealed the Trial Chamber’s determination that Kabuga is not fit to stand trial and the Defence appealed the Trial Chamber’s decision to continue the proceedings in accordance with an “alternative finding procedure”.
In its decision today, the Appeals Chamber unanimously dismissed the Prosecution’s appeal, finding that the Prosecution failed to show that the Trial Chamber applied an incorrect legal standard or erred in evaluating the evidence when determining that Kabuga is not fit to stand trial.
The Appeals Chamber stated that it was cognizant that victims and survivors of the crimes that Kabuga is charged with have waited long to see justice delivered, and that the inability to complete the trial proceedings in this case, due to Kabuga’s lack of fitness to stand trial, must be disappointing.
It noted, however, that justice can be delivered only by holding trials that are fair and conducted with full respect for the rights of the accused set out in the Statute.