French court okays transfer of Rwanda genocide suspect to UN tribunal in Tanzania

Wednesday September 30 2020

A courtroom sketch made on May 20, 2020 showing Felicien Kabuga, one of the last key suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. PHOTO | AFP


France's top appeals court ruled Wednesday that alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga should be transferred to a UN tribunal in Tanzania to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Kabuga, arrested near Paris in May after 25 years on the run, had asked to face justice in France. But the Court of Cassation ruled there was no legal or medical obstacle to executing an international warrant for Kabuga's transfer to the Arusha-based tribunal.

He will be tried for his alleged role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide of some 800,000 people by Hutu extremists targeting minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Once one of Rwanda's richest men, Kabuga is alleged to have funnelled money to militia groups as chairman of the national defence fund.

He is also accused of setting up the Interahamwe militia that carried out massacres as well as the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines whose broadcasts incited people to murder.

In June, a French court ruled Kabuga should stand trial at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) based in Arusha, Tanzania. The MICT 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 their client's frail health and fears the UN tribunal would be biased.

At a hearing before the Cour de Cassation, France's highest appeals court for criminal cases, Kabuga's lawyer Louis Bore also 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.

But the judges disagreed, and France now has one month to hand Kabuga, who says he is 87, over to the MICT.