A speedy trial is in the interest of justice, say Rwandan survivors
An alleged financier of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda is fit to stand trial at The Hague, a UN tribunal said in a decision that was welcomed by genocide survivors.
The tribunal said the trial must begin “as soon as possible,” dismissing a plea by Felicien Kabuga’s lawyers to halt proceedings on health grounds.
“The defense has not established that Kabuga is presently unfit for trial,” said the ruling of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) on Monday.
Naphtal Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of the umbrella body of Rwanda genocide survivors’ organizations, IBUKA, said there is a need to expedite the trial because of the gravity of the charges.
“Kabuga is in his advanced age and probably has health conditions but it is good for his trial to be expedited in the interest of justice during his lifetime,” said Ahishakiye.
Ahishakiye, talking to Anadolu Agency, cited key former Rwanda genocide fugitive Protais Mpiranya, who reportedly died in Zimbabwe in October 2006 before facing justice.
The remains of the former commander of the Rwandan presidential guard during the genocide were exhumed at the Granville Cemetery in Harare following a request by UN investigators to the Zimbabwean government to take DNA samples.
His identity was confirmed by DNA analysis in May, the tribunal said last month.
UN investigators had reportedly tracked down and identified Mpiranya’s grave with the help of a critical lead — — the hand-drawn design of Mpiranya’s tombstone that was found on a confiscated computer.
Kabuga is accused of having a role in establishing the notorious hate Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines which incited people to kill the Tutsi population.
He was indicted in August 1998 by the now-defunct Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and an international arrest warrant was issued for him the following year.
He was charged on multiple counts, including genocide, complicity in genocide, and crimes against humanity following an amended indictment filed in March 2021.
The 87-year-old is currently held at The Hague awaiting trial before the MICT that replaced the ICTR.
The tribunal said Kabuga needs “24-hour nursing care” and resides in a prison hospital.
The judges admitted that it had not been easy to determine Kabuga’s fitness to stand trial and recommended continuous monitoring of his condition by independent medical experts.
Kabuga was arrested in Paris in May 2020 after 26 years of a manhunt.
The genocide, in which more than 1 million people were killed, targeted minority Tutsis by Hutu extremists after the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira in a plane crash on April 6, 1994.
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