The Paris Court of Appeal issued a favorable opinion on Wednesday to 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 investigative chamber of the court of appeal, which was responsible for examining the validity of the arrest warrant issued by the Mechanism for International Criminal Courts (MTPI), ordered its surrender to this structure responsible for completing the work of the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
It also rejected a priority question of constitutionality which had been brought up by the lawyers of Mr. Kabuga, currently imprisoned in France.
The latter, seated in a wheelchair, remained unmoved by the statement of the decision, asking only where he could be transferred.
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His defense immediately announced to seize the Court of Cassation, which will have two months to rule. In the event of rejection, there will still be one month to submit it to the MTPI.
"I expected this decision, we are in an extremely political context," said Laurent Bayon, one of his lawyers, to journalists after the deliberations.
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.
"A transfer to Arusha and the conditions of detention in Arusha would not allow him to survive and, as a result, there would be a trial at the end, both for the victims and for him," said Bayon.
Last week, an MTPI judge in The Hague, William Sekule, estimated that the Rwandan should be transferred to Arusha when the conditions are met, rejecting a request from the MTPI prosecutor who wanted the surrender of Mr. Kabuga on the air of the international tribunal in The Hague in view of the travel restrictions put in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. Kabuga, 87 years old according to him, suffered a colon removal last year in a Parisian hospital and suffers from "delusions" according to his lawyers, who want to have him tried in France.
Arrested on May 16 in the Paris suburbs, the old man is notably accused of having created, with other individuals, the Hutu Interahamwe militias, the main armed arms of the 1994 genocide which claimed, according to the UN, 800,000 deaths, mainly in the within the Tutsi minority. And to have used his fortune to send thousands of machetes to the militia.
Audience sketch of May 20, 2020 representing Félicien Kabuga before the Paris Court of Appeal
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, before the investigating chamber at the hearing examining the arrest warrant issued by the MTPI.
To contest his transfer to Arusha, his lawyers highlighted the case of seven ill-treated ICTR accused, including one who died before his trial, mentioning endemic diseases, the state of the Tanzanian health system, and the health crisis linked to Covid-19.
But in its judgment, the investigating chamber considers that there is "no objective reason to doubt that the MTPI is able to provide Félicien Kabuga with the same medical guarantees as those currently offered in France".
Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals / United Nations / AFP / -
Montage published on May 16, 2020 by the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MTPI) of two photos of the Rwandan Félicien Kasuga.
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.