Rwanda genocide suspect man was living under a false identity in a flat outside Paris, justice ministry says. Felicien Kabuga has been indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Kabuga is alleged to be the main financier and backer of the political and militia groups that committed the Rwandan genocide.
French gendarmes arrested the Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga on Saturday near Paris after 25 years on the run, as a result of a joint investigation with the U.N.’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunal’s office of the prosecutor, he was accused of playing a leading role in one of the worst massacres of the 20th century.
The French justice ministry says, the 84-year-old, who is Rwanda’s most-wanted man and had a $5m bounty on his head, was living under a false identity in a flat in Asnieres-Sur-Seine.
Kabuga, a Hutu businessman, is accused of funding militias that massacred about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days in 1994.
“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, known to have been the financier of Rwanda genocide, had with impunity stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” a justice ministry statement said.
Kabuga was born in Kibungo, in the commune of Gitarama, prefecture of Mabuye, present-day Rwanda. Kabuga amassed his wealth by owning tea farms in northern Rwanda, among other business ventures.
The wealthy businessman also was accused of establishing the station Radio Television Mille Collines that broadcast vicious propaganda against the ethnic Tutsi, as well as training and equipping the Interahamwe militia that led the killing spree.
Rwandan prosecutors have said financial documents found in the capital, Kigali, after the genocide indicated that Kabuga used dozens of his companies to import vast quantities of machetes that were used to slaughter people.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Kabuga’s arrest, according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
It “sends a powerful message that those who are alleged to have committed such crimes cannot evade justice and will eventually be held accountable, even more than a quarter of a century later,” Dujarric said.
Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, described the arrest as “an important step towards justice for hundreds of thousands of genocide victims.”
Kabuga was close to former President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death when his plane was shot down over Kigali sparked the 100-day genocide. Kabuga’s daughter married Habyarimana’s son.
Kabuga is expected to be transferred to the custody of the U.N. mechanism, where he will stand trial. It is based at The Hague in the Netherlands.
“The arrest of Kabuga today is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes,” the mechanism’s chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in a statement. He said partners who contributed to the arrest included law enforcement agencies and prosecution services from Rwanda, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United States.
Officials in Rwanda hailed the arrest. According to prosecutors, other top fugitives still at large include Protais Mpiranya, the former commander of the Presidential Guards, and former Defense Minister Augustin Bizimana.
Guterres, the U.N. chief, stressed that all countries have an obligation to cooperate in the location, arrest and transfer of those sought by international courts, Dujarric said.
“The secretary-general’s thoughts today are first and foremost with the victims of Mr. Kabuga’s alleged crimes, the victims of other serious international crimes, and their families,” the U.N. spokesman said. “Ending impunity is essential for peace, security and justice.”
For years after the genocide, relations between Rwanda and France were under strain, with Rwanda’s ruling party blaming the French government in part for supporting the genocidal regime.
His arrest “is an important step towards justice for hundreds of thousands of genocide victims… survivors can hope to see justice and suspects cannot expect to escape accountability,” Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.