Genocide: Key step for the surrender of Félicien Kabuga to international justice

The Paris Court of Appeal is due to rule on the surrender to international justice of Félicien Kabuga, accused of being the "financier" of the genocide in Rwanda and who is trying, by all means, to be tried in France after more than 25 years on the run.

The octogenarian, long time one of the most wanted fugitives in the world, invokes his state of health and the fear of partial justice to refuse his transfer to Arusha, in Tanzania, where sits the court of the UN which must judge for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The investigating chamber of the court of appeal should presumably give a favorable opinion on the execution of the arrest warrant, to the chagrin of the defense.

Courts are only required to have a fairly formal check on the validity of the arrest warrant issued by the Mechanism for International Criminal Courts (MTPI), the structure responsible for completing the work of the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Even in the event of a favorable opinion, Félicien Kabuga will still be able to seize the Court of Cassation, which will have two months to rule on it, before handing it over to the MTPI within one additional month.

At the hearing on May 27, lawyers for the businessman however asked the court to suspend his decision to transmit a priority question of constitutionality (QPC). According to them, French law violates the Constitution by not providing for a more in-depth control of the arrest warrants of international justice.

Félicien Kabuga, arrested on May 16 in the Paris suburbs, is notably accused of having created, with other individuals, the Hutu Interahamwe militias, the main armed arms of the 1994 genocide which, according to the UN, killed 800,000 people, mainly in the within the Tutsi minority. And to have used his fortune to send thousands of machetes to the militia.

But the former president of the infamous Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which broadcast calls for the Tutsi murders, disputes all of the seven charges.

The Hague or Arusha? 

"These are all lies. The Tutsi, I helped them in everything I did, in my business, I gave them credit. I was not going to kill my customers," said Félicien Kabuga, in Kyniarwanda, at the hearing of May 27.

During the two and a half hours of debate, the old man, 84 years old according to the arrest warrant, 87 years old according to him, remained seated on a wheelchair in the center of the room, close to his family, almost motionless, but regularly forced to take off his mask to spit and blow his nose.

The state of health of Mr. Kabuga, who underwent ablation of the colon last year in a Parisian hospital and suffers from "delusions" according to his lawyers, is moreover at the heart of the defense challenges.

It highlights the case of seven ill-treated ICTR accused, including one who died before his trial. In addition to endemic diseases and the state of the Tanzanian health system, lawyers also invoke the health crisis linked to Covid-19.

To take account of the pandemic, the MTPI prosecutor had also asked a judge to modify the arrest warrant to organize a surrender of the suspect to the antenna of the international court in The Hague, in the Netherlands. Request refused, which does not prevent a stopover in this city, the time to organize a safe transfer to Tanzania.

Finally, Mr. Kabuga's lawyers fear that, once in Tanzania, the MTPI will decide to hand over their client to the Rwandan authorities, thereby circumventing France's refusal to deliver the genocide suspects to Kigali.

This is why the defense wrote to the MTPI on Tuesday to officially ask it to divest for the benefit of French justice, which has already tried and convicted three genocidaires.