UN judges want trial against Felicien Kabuga suspended


The UN appeal judges have ordered the suspension of the war crimes trial against 90-year-old Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga indefinitely.

The decision, made by the appeals judges, is based on the fact that Kabuga has been diagnosed with dementia. This comes after the lower court ruled him unfit to stand trial but proposed alternative procedures. However, the appeals judges deemed this as an “error of law” and stated that there was no legal basis for anything other than a trial for Kabuga.

The suspension of the trial means that it is highly unlikely that Kabuga’s case, which started in Hague last year, will ever be completed. Prosecutors argued against halting the trial, claiming that it would be unfair to the victims. They also pointed out that Kabuga’s own actions had led him to face trial at an advanced age with diminished capacity. However, the appeals judges disregarded these arguments and decided to remand the matter to the trial chamber with an instruction to impose an indefinite stay of proceedings due to Kabuga’s lack of fitness to stand trial.

In addition to suspending the trial, the judges also instructed the trial chamber to promptly consider the issue of Kabuga’s detention on remand. This means that the detention of Kabuga, who has been in custody since his arrest in May 2020, will continue for the time being.

The appeals judges acknowledged that their decision would be disappointing for the victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide who have been waiting for justice to be served. However, they emphasized that justice can only be delivered through trials that are fair and conducted with full respect for the rights of the accused.

UN judges want trial against Felicien Kabuga suspended
Handout photos of Felicien Kabuga released on May 16, 2020, by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals [File: via AFP]
The case of Felicien Kabuga is significant as he is considered one of the key figures in the Rwandan genocide. He is accused of financing and arming ethnic Hutu militias that carried out the mass killings of Tutsis. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 people were killed during the 100-day period of the genocide.

The suspension of Kabuga’s trial raises important questions about how to proceed with cases involving elderly defendants with deteriorating health conditions. Balancing the need for justice with the recognition of the accused’s capacity to stand trial is a complex issue. In this case, the appeals judges deemed that a full trial was not possible due to Kabuga’s dementia. However, this decision undoubtedly disappoints the victims and survivors who have waited for justice for so long.

In a significant development in the trial of Félicien Kabuga, the judges have ordered a lower trial chamber to promptly assess the circumstances under which Kabuga could be released. Kabuga, a former businessman who amassed his wealth in the tea trade, is one of the last remaining suspects being prosecuted for crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. During this horrific genocide, members of the country’s Hutu majority systematically murdered over 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates within a span of just 100 days.

Kabuga stands accused of financing Hutu militias and actively promoting hate speech through his radio station, Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM). This radio station played a significant role in the dissemination of genocidal propaganda throughout Rwanda.

Despite being a fugitive from international justice for many years, Kabuga was finally apprehended near Paris in May 2020, thanks to the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies. He was subsequently transferred to The Hague to stand trial at the residual mechanism, a court established to handle remaining cases from the now-closed United Nations tribunals for Rwanda and the Balkan wars.

During his initial appearance, Kabuga pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, as well as persecution, extermination, and murder.

UN judges want trial against Felicien Kabuga suspended
This screengrab taken from handout video footage released by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals shows Felicien Kabuga, an alleged financier of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, at a hearing in The Hague on August 18, 2022 [File: via AFP]
In September, the UN prosecutor, Rashid Rashid, highlighted in his opening statement that Kabuga was not required to directly call for the killing of Tutsis himself. Instead, he founded a radio station that served as a platform for broadcasting genocidal propaganda across Rwanda, intensifying the violence and fueling the hatred that led to the mass killings.

Now, with the judges ordering a lower trial chamber to expedite the evaluation of the circumstances under which Kabuga could be released, a new chapter unfolds in this high-profile trial. It remains to be seen how this evaluation will be conducted and what factors will be taken into account.

The court will likely consider various aspects such as the severity of the charges, the available evidence, the personal conduct of the accused during the trial, and any potential risks associated with his release. Given the gravity of the crimes Kabuga is accused of, it is crucial that an impartial and thorough evaluation is conducted, ensuring that justice is served and the rights of the victims are upheld.

According to prosecutors, the charges of genocide include acts of rape, sexual assault, and murder. It was alleged that Hutu individuals were encouraged through RTLM broadcasts to commit acts of violence against Tutsi women.

Additionally, the accused was charged with supplying machetes to Hutu death squads. Kabuga had consistently denied these allegations.

To date, the tribunal has convicted sixty-two individuals for their involvement in the Rwandan genocide.

Ericson Mangoli
Ericson Mangoli is the founder and Managing Editor of Who Owns Africa, a platform for African journalism that focuses on politics, governance, and business. With a passion for truth and a dedication to highlighting pressing issues in Africa, Mangoli has become a significant voice in the field. He embarked on this journey after graduating with a degree in communications and realizing his true calling was in investigative reporting and shedding light on untold stories.  Who Owns Africa provides thought-provoking articles, in-depth analyses, and incisive commentary to help people understand the complexities of the region. Mangoli is committed to impartiality and ethical reporting, setting high standards for his team. His vision for the platform is to foster critical thinking and promote informed discussions that have a positive impact on African society. Mangoli is known for his eloquent and insightful writing which tackles pressing issues in Africa. His articles cover a range of topics including political corruption, economic development, fostering international partnerships, and African governance. He sheds light on the complexities of these subjects and empowers readers to engage in conversations for positive change. Mangoli's coverage of African politics analyzes the factors that drive change and hinder progress, while his reporting on governance advocates for stronger institutions and policies. Additionally, he explores the challenges and opportunities facing African businesses and inspires readers to contribute to Africa's economic growth.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More Articles from the Author

Most Popular