The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha may be closing shop later this year, but there is no let-up in tracking down its most high profile fugitive: Felicien Kabuga.
The court’s officer-in-charge (communications cluster) Danford Mpumilwa, told The EastAfrican that the ICTR still considers Kabuga one of the business people who joined senior ministers, military commanders, musicians, clergymen, business people, journalists, district and regional commissioners in perpetrating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“Kabuga was among the businessmen who saw genocide as good business. What we had in effect was a killing machine that was very efficient, reflected in its diverse composition,” he said.
Mr Kabuga has frequently been reported as hiding in Kenya, claims Nairobi has repeatedly denied. Kenya, Mr Mpumilwa said, had helped the court apprehend a dozen suspects in its coastal city of Mombasa, but still needed to assuage concerns on the Kabuga question.
“The prosecution and tracking teams suggest there is physical evidence that his last country of entry was Kenya... we have also not received evidence indicating his departure from the country,” he said.
Most of the fugitives on the run, he added, were people of means and had often entered into massive business deals with the elite of countries that offered them refuge.
And if the court’s fugitives thought they would be in the clear once the court closes shop, they have another thing coming: The court is setting up a mechanism to manage its convicts, archives and fugitives.
“There must be an institution that is going to manage these issues. Our 1,500-person staff will certainly leave, and the registry, prosecution and chambers be gone too, but our work will continue in some other way. Our library section has already donated some of the court’s resources to a study group from Kenya’s Daystar University,” he said.
‘No one is above the law’
“As the media case at the ICTR demonstrated, accountability is inevitable. The court’s decisions in that case continue to be cited in other juridical contexts. We are sending a powerful message that no one is above the law. We are telling Kabuga that you must appear in court, or proof be provided that you are dead,” said Mr Mpumilwa.
The court, he said, had contributed to Rwanda’s stability by taking out prominent figures that would have either muddied its politics or forcibly sought to disrupt its affairs.
“The challenge we are now having is that some members of the international community still do not want to accept the 10 suspects who have either been acquitted or completed their terms at the ICTR. The 10 also do not want to return to Rwanda,” he said.
Mali, Benin, Senegal, Swaziland, France and Sweden are some of the countries currently hosting the court’s prisoners.