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  • World - Africa
  • Updated: June 07, 2023

Rwanda Genocide: Felicien Kabuga Declared Unfit To Stand Trial

Rwanda Genocide: Felicien Kabuga Declared Unfit To Stand Tri

Felicien Kabuga

UN war crimes judges ruled that ageing Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga is unfit to stand trial but should still go through a stripped-down legal process, in a decision announced on Wednesday.

Kabuga, who officials say is 88 but claims to be 90, is a former billionaire accused of establishing a hate broadcaster that fueled the 1994 killing of nearly 800,000 people.

Kabuga went on trial in The Hague in September, but judges claimed medical specialists discovered he had "severe dementia" and couldn't participate adequately in court.

In an order, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals stated that it "finds Kabuga not fit for trial and is very unlikely to regain fitness in the future."

The judges stated that they wished to "adopt an alternative finding procedure that closely resembles a trial but without the possibility of conviction." 

The judges emphasized that it was critical for victims, survivors, and the international community that the genocide crimes against Kabuga be addressed in court.

Prosecutors accuse Kabuga, previously one of Rwanda's wealthiest men, of forming hate media that encouraged ethnic Hutus to kill rival Tutsis and of providing machetes to death squads.

At the outset of his trial, the businessman refused to attend in court or appear remotely, and he has since observed proceedings by video-link from a wheelchair at the court's detention centre.

The trial was originally halted in March due to health concerns after the court rejected efforts by Kabuga's defence counsel to declare him unable to stand trial.

Judges stated in their judgment on Tuesday that three court-appointed medical experts determined Kabuga's mental faculties had "significantly deteriorated" since the trial.

As a result, the Rwandan was unable to grasp what was going on in court, interpret evidence, direct his attorneys, or testify, according to the report.

However, the court ruled that cancelling the trial would be "inappropriate."

They emphasized the "importance of addressing the charges of crimes against humanity and genocide against him to the victims and survivors of those crimes, as well as to the international community as a whole."

An alternative judicial approach, which would respect Kabuga's legal rights, has previously been explored in other Commonwealth countries.

The court further stated that Kabuga would not be forced to attend the new judicial procedure.

Kabuga was apprehended in Paris in 2020 after decades on the run and sent to The Hague for trial.

He has pled not guilty on charges of being a member of the infamous Hutu extremist radio station that urged people to murder Tutsi "cockroaches" during the 1994 bloodbath.

He also denied having supplied machetes to the homicidal Interahamwe Hutu group.

Kabuga is one of the final Rwandan genocide defendants to stand trial, with the tribunal convicting 62 people so far.

Fulgence Kayishema, another suspect, appeared in court in the South African city of Cape Town in May after being apprehended after 22 years on the run.

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