Felicien Kabuga, Rwanda’s most wanted genocide suspect, through his lawyer Emmanuel Altit, pleaded not guilty to seven counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Before the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) in The Hague, on Wednesday, Kabuga also contested extradition to Arusha, Tanzania.
He is alleged to have armed militias with machetes and other weapons and incited them to take part in Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.
Kabuga, 85, appeared in a three-piece suit, sitting on a wheelchair in court, flanked by two guards.
“Before we continue, Mr Kabuga, I am now addressing you directly. Are you hearing these proceedings in a language that you understand?” Judge Iain Bonomy asked.
It took the Court’s language assistant’s translation for Kabuga to reply in affirmative, but saying he preferred Kinyarwanda.
He listened intently, sometimes fidgeting with the blue medical face mask he wore, as the Court official read out his 18-page indictment.
He, however, did not personally respond in court to the charges, but his lawyer, Mr Altit, asked Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy to consider his non-response as a plea of not guilty on all counts.
It is at this point that Justice Bonomy formally entered not guilty pleas.
“I will enter an appeal not guilty in accordance with the rules that you suggest. The plan of course will be changed any time,” said Judge Bonomy.
Appearing for the first time before the IRMCT since he was transferred to The Hague following his arrest outside Paris in May, Kabuga was charged with crimes including genocide, complicity in genocide, and incitement to genocide, persecution and extermination.