Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga can be sent to UN tribunal, French court rules

Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga can be handed over to a United Nations tribunal in Tanzania, France’s top civil court ruled on Wednesday, dismissing his lawyers’ arguments that he is too frail to be extradited.

UN prosecutors accuse the former tea and coffee tycoon of bankrolling and importing huge numbers of machetes for ethnic Hutu militias who killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda during a 100-day period in 1994.

Kabuga’s arrest in Paris in May ended a manhunt lasting more than two decades. He has denounced the charges, including genocide and incitement to commit genocide, as “lies.”

His lawyers said that at 87 he was too frail to be transferred abroad, especially during a dangerous coronavirus pandemic. The French courts list his age as 84.

Kabuga’s legal team also argued that French law violated the constitution by failing to allow for a thorough examination of international arrest warrants.

In a statement, France’s Cour de Cassation said it “considers that the investigating chamber was able to consider correctly that there was no legal or medical obstacle to the execution of the arrest warrant transfer order to the United Nations detention centre in Arusha, Tanzania.”

France has one month to carry out the ruling, an official in the French judiciary said.

A man stands near victims’ bones recovered from pits that were used as mass graves during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Until his arrest, Kabuga had been the most high-profile fugitive still sought by the UN tribunal in Arusha formerly known as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The ICTR was closed in 2015, but a successor body still operates in Tanzania and in the Netherlands.

Sources at the tribunal said whether Kabuga was sent first to The Hague or to Arusha would depend in part on the pandemic.

Tanzania’s president has said the COVID-19 outbreak is over and almost all restrictions have been lifted. The country has reported just 21 deaths, substantially lower than its neighbours, but has been criticized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for not sharing enough data.

The Hague is an infection hot spot where more restrictions were imposed this week.