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France Agrees to Extradite Rwanda Genocide Suspect Felicien Kabuga to UN court

On Wednesday, a French court ordered Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga to be handed over to a United Nations tribunal for trial, rejecting arguments that he should be allowed to remain in country because of his health.

A red cross is seen drawn on the face of Felicien Kabuga, on a wanted poster at the Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit office in Kigali, Rwanda. PHOTO: AFP

The 84-year-old businessman was arrested earlier this month in a suburb in Paris after 26 years on the run.

UN prosecutors accuse Kabuga of bankrolling and arming ethnic Hutu militias that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

Over 100 days they targeted members of the minority Tutsi community and their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

His money and connections helped him avoid arrest as he moved from Rwanda to Switzerland, the former Zaire and Kenya.

Kabuga lawyers say he would not receive a fair trial at the tribunal based in The Hague and in Arusha, Tanzania.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up in 1994. It operated until 2015. It indicted 93 individuals, and heard 55 cases. The court was taken over by the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. It was set up to perform the remaining functions of both the Rwanda tribunal and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

They also argue his health is too frail for him to be transferred to the African country, particularly during a dangerous pandemic.

But the court said his health was “not incompatible” with a transfer. Kabuga is currently being held in a Paris prison.

In a letter to the UN tribunal’s chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, ahead of Wednesday’s ruling, Kabuga’s lawyers urged him to leave the case with France’s judiciary.

But the court, which lists his age as 84, said his health was “not incompatible” with a transfer. Kabuga cannot appeal the transfer order, but his lawyers immediately challenged two further rulings on procedure, setting in train deliberations that will last at least two months.

The slow pace of international justice is a concern for survivors of the genocide, said Richard Gisagara, a lawyer representing an organisation of Rwandan expatriates in France: “We are worried that once again he will escape justice.”

While Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused Rwanda’s judicial system of unfair practices and heavy political interference, according to reports.

Kabuga’s arrest has raised questions over how one of Rwanda’s most wanted men was able to live undetected in France since at least 2016.

Gisagara said he had filed a complaint to initiate an investigation into who had aided him.

Felicien Kabuga might be the most infamous European resident, but he’s not alone. Another suspect is Agathe Habyarimana, the former wife of the Rwandan President and a primary actor during the genocide’s planning, who lives in France.

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