The Paris Court of Appeal issued a favorable opinion on Wednesday for 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.
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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).
Kabuga, currently imprisoned in France, remained unmoved, sitting in a wheelchair, at the announcement of the decision, only asking where he could be transferred.
Appeal in cassation
His defense immediately announced to seize the Court of Cassation (highest court of the French judicial system) 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,” Laurent Bayon, one of his lawyers, told reporters 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 temporary transfer of Mr. Kabuga to The Hague given the travel restrictions put in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kabuga, 87, he said, underwent a colon removal last year in a Paris 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 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 Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television (RTLM), which broadcast calls for the Tutsi murders, disputes the entire 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 clients, “said Félicien Kabuga, in Kyniarwanda, before the investigation chamber during 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” .
Finally, his lawyers fear that once Mr. Kabuga 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.