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Rwanda genocide suspect might be tried in Tanzania

Thursday May 21 2020

Felicien Kabuga

A courtroom sketch made on May 20, 2020 shows Felicien Kabuga, a Rwanda genocide suspect, as he appeared publicly for the first time at the Paris Court of Appeal. MICT chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said Kabuga is expected to be tried in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO | BENOIT PEYRUCQ | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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A Rwandan tycoon arrested in connection with his country's 1994 genocide after more than two decades on the run, is expected to be tried at a tribunal in Tanzania, a prosecutor told AFP Wednesday.

Felicien Kabuga, 84, one of the last key fugitives wanted over the genocide, was arrested at his home outside Paris on Saturday after living for years under a false identity.

Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor for the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), told AFP Kabuga is expected to be tried in Arusha, Tanzania, where he was in 1997 indicted on seven charges, including genocide.

GENOCIDE FINANCING

He is accused of being one of the organisers and financiers of the genocide carried out by ethnic Hutu extremists against Tutsis but also moderate Hutus between April and July 1994, in which at least 800,000 people were slaughtered.

According to the UN indictment filed against him, Kabuga -- once one of Rwanda's richest men -- used his fortune and business empire to facilitate the killings.

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Arusha was the headquarters of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda which closed in 2015, and whose duties are now being handled by the MICT.

"It is fully expected that the trial will take place in Arusha," said Brammertz.

THE HAGUE

"Of course, in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, where there are obvious health concerns as well as difficulties in international travel, it cannot be excluded that Kabuga may first be transferred to The Hague while preparations are made for his transfer to Arusha."

The Arusha branch of the MICT -- which also has an office in The Hague -- is housed in a United Nations complex where it has an ultramodern courtroom and conserves the archives of the Rwanda genocide trials.

LOST APPEAL

The first to appear in the courtroom was Augustin Ngirabatware, planning minister at the time of the genocide who was found guilty of inciting, aiding and encouraging Hutu militiamen to kill their Tutsi neighbours. He lost an appeal against his 30-year sentence in 2019.

Following Kabuga's arrest, seven other key fugitives remain. They include former defense minister Augustin Bizimana and top-ranking military figure Protais Mpiranya.

Brammertz said international trackers were "motivated more than ever to find the remaining fugitives".

As the most significant suspects still sought over the attack the two would also, if caught, be tried by the MICT.

However the others would be handed to Rwandan authorities.

Kabuga's lawyers said Tuesday he will oppose his extradition and Brammertz said hearings in France could take months to decide his fate.