What was Félicien Kabuga thinking when he heard his judgment? The old man remained stagnant, almost impassive, when the investigative chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal ordered, Wednesday, June 3, his transfer to the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Courts (MTPI) . The court found that “All the legal requirements to allow for arrest and transfer” of who is considered the financier of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda were “United”.
According to the outcome of the ongoing review, its destination will be Arusha, Tanzania, or The Hague, the Netherlands, where MTPI has branches. In its judgment, the court also dismissed the priority question of constitutionality filed by the defense. “We are going to appeal on points of law on the two decisions which have been rendered”, said Laurent Bayon, lawyer for Kabuga, before adding: “We are in an extremely political context. “
Arrested on May 16 in Asnières-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine), Félicien Kabuga is charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), ancestor of the MTPI, with seven counts, including those of “genocide “And” complicity in genocide “. 87 years old according to him, he wants to be tried in France, where part of his family lives. “A transfer to Arusha would not allow my client to survive, estimated Me Bayon. And that would not allow a trial, which is important for the victims but also for him. “
Twenty-six years on the run
On Tuesday, in a letter written to Serge Brammertz, MTPI’s attorney, the lawyer asked that international justice take over the case in favor of French courts. He relied on the fact that the BNP Paribas bank, accused by several NGOs of having financed in 1994 a purchase of arms for Hutu extremists, was currently the subject of an ongoing investigation in Paris, citing “A similarity of the facts prosecuted”. And then there would be, according to him, the duty of truth: “If you decided to assert the primacy of your jurisdiction over French jurisdictions, thus endangering the life of Félicien Kabuga, we would take the risk of renouncing the truth, forever”, he defended.
Mr. Kabuga’s mental and physical health is at the heart of his defense system today. Tomorrow, she will be one of the keys to her trial. But does the one who lived in the Paris region with a passport issued by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under the name of Antoine Tounga still have all his memories? Does he remember financing the purchase of tens of thousands of machetes to arm the Interahamwe, those Hutu militiamen who bloodied the hills of Rwanda between April and July 1994? Does he remember having assembled a round table to finance the infamous Radio and Television of the Thousand Hills, which he chaired? After twenty-six years of a run that led him from Switzerland to the DRC via Kenya, Germany, Luxembourg and France, it is doubtful.
And if he ever remembered being the “banker” of the genocide which killed 800,000 people, would he agree to cooperate during his trial? To tell how he participated in the planning of this hatred against the Tutsi who plunged his country in absolute horror? In the light of the few words he said during his three appearances before the Parisian court, nothing is less certain. ” I did not do anything “, he said on May 27, after insisting on speaking: “These are lies. I did not kill Tutsi while I worked with them and I gave them credit. “
“Deny it all”
“As early as 1995, Western lawyers contacted senior genocide officials to advise them, recalls the historian Hélène Dumas, researcher at the CNRS. Jean Kambanda [premier ministre du gouvernement intérimaire pendant le génocide] said during his interrogation by the investigators of the ICTR that a vade-mecum had been published to define the crimes which one could reproach them, the penalties which they incur and even the behavior to adopt if they were arrested. On this point, there was talk of denying everything as a whole, including the genocide and the massacres themselves. “
Pending a possible transfer and then a trial, Kabuga’s relatives are mobilizing on all fronts. Her children last week released a statement explaining that their father “Has accumulated many pathologies for years: diabetes, hypertension and severe senile dementia”. They also said that“Having had a colectomy last year, his state of health required constant monitoring and supervision.” The day before the hearing, a petition was launched on the Internet to oppose his transfer to Arusha, “So that France gives him the chance to be followed by his doctors”. In just over twenty-four hours, she collected nearly 1,300 signatures.
Before the hearing at the court of appeal, Kabuga’s lawyers had already lost a first legal battle by summoning the French state for interim measures for violation of the presumption of innocence. “We only did one step”, recalled Laurent Bayon when leaving the court. The Court of Cassation now has two months to decide. If rejected, there will still be a month to hand over Félicien Kabuga to international justice and organize his transfer to the Netherlands or Tanzania.