Rwanda has protested the delay to the start of trial of suspected genocide financier Felicien Kabuga, who was arrested in France in May 2020 after 25 years on the run and is detained in The Hague since October 2020 pending trial by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).
The trial is understood to have been delayed after Mr Kabuga’s associates, whose bank accounts were frozen on suspicion they could aid him avoid arrest, filed a motion to the court seeking access to their funds.
In his update to the Security Council on December 13, IRMCT Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said his team filed its pre-trial brief and responded to significant additional litigation initiated by Mr Kabuga’s family members and associated third parties concerning seized assets.
“My office is ready for and looks forward to the commencement of this trial at the Arusha branch when ordered by the Trial Chamber,” he said.
Rwanda, however, submitted that the delay was unjustifiable and took issue with the extended pretrial phases, saying they not only delay justice for the victims and survivors of the genocide but also jeopardise the core judicial mandate of IRMCT.
“The priority of the government of Rwanda and the priority of justice is and should be that the trial should start,” said Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN, Valentine Rugwabiza.
In particular, Ms Rugwabiza protested failure by other countries to apprehend fugitives indicted for genocide.
She did not state names, but prosecutor Brammertz fingered South Africa and Zimbabwe for non-cooperation and failing to adhere to international obligations.
“The situation with South Africa is among the most severe instances of non-cooperation my office has faced since the Mechanism’s establishment,” he said, adding that his office submitted an urgent request three months ago for a joint investigation team.
Rwanda's prosecution indicates it issued over 973 indictments for genocide fugitives abroad over the past eight years. The largest number of those indicted are in DR Congo and Uganda.
Five new indictments were issued this year to France, Italy, and Sweden.
But officials say efforts to apprehend them are frustrated by lack of political will by host countries and concealing of identities.
“Government and people of Rwanda continue to ask ourselves what could possibly be the geostrategic interests of any member State to side with the perpetrators by assisting them to hide and escape justice for crimes of Genocide they committed in Rwanda,” said Rugwabiza.
Rwanda’s diplomat says they not only get a safe haven but also use the territory for subversive activities and the spread of genocide ideology beyond Rwanda's borders.
Brammertz says he has not yet received a response to recommendations for improving cooperation by Zimbabwe, while has faced immense challenges over three years in obtaining cooperation from South Africa which failed to arrest Mr Kayishema and to provide critical information.
“Unfortunately, I am unable to provide a more positive update today. South Africa is still failing to adhere to its international obligations,” he said.