French court affirms transfer of Rwanda genocide suspect to UN tribunal


France’s Court of Cassation ruled on Wednesday that alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga be transferred to a UN tribunal in Tanzania to stand trial on charges of genocide.

Kabuga, who is accused of funding militias that massacred about 800,000 people in Rwanda, was arrested in May near Paris after 25 years on the run.

The octogenarian had asked to be tried in France, not Arusha, over his alleged role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide of minority Tutsis by Hutu extremists.

But judges at France’s top appeals court ruled there was no legal or medical obstacle to executing an international warrant for Kabuga’s transfer to UN custody.

Kabuga, who was once one of Rwanda’s richest men, is accused of having helped create the Interahamwe Hutu militia group and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines, whose broadcasts incited people to murder, and of helping to buy machetes in 1993 that were distributed to genocidal groups.

In June, a French court ruled Kabuga should stand trial at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in Tanzania, which took over the duties of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) when it formally closed in 2015.

Kabuga’s lawyers appealed that decision, citing what they said was his frail health and fears the UN tribunal would be biased.

But the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest appeals court for criminal cases, disagreed on Wednesday, meaning France will have a month to hand Kabuga, who says he is 87, over to the MICT.

France has already extradited other Rwanda genocide suspects to the Tanzania tribunal in recent years.

Kabuga’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit told AFP after Wednesday’s ruling that the defence team would ask the MICT that Kabuga be transferred to The Hague rather than Arusha, “because in The Hague his rights will be better protected.”

During the hearing before the Cour de Cassation, another Kabuga lawyer, Louis Bore, claimed his client would not receive proper medical treatment in Tanzania for conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and leukoaraiosis – an incurable illness that erodes physical and cognitive abilities.

Kabuga was indicted by the ICTR in 1997 on seven counts, all of which he denies.

“We expected this outcome,” Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, president of the IBUKA genocide survivors’ body told AFP of Wednesday’s ruling, welcoming a “service towards justice”.

“If this was not the outcome we would have been very disappointed in the French justice system.”

Rwanda has said it wants to see Kabuga tried by its own courts.

However, transferring jurisdiction from the MICT would require a decision from the UN Security Council, according to MICT prosecutor Serge Brammertz.

Rwanda itself carried out 22 executions of people convicted for their role in the conflict before abolishing the death penalty in 2007, a move that facilitated the extradition of suspects from other countries to its jurisdiction. (Source: The Straits Times)