Felicien Kabuga  French court’s ruling and the expectations of genocide survivors

A French court ruled on Wednesday, June 3 that suspected genocide mastermind Felicien Kabuga was transferred from France to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunals Residual Mechanism (RMICT) for trial.

However, the latest development still fails to provide answers to a request for a domestic trial by survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda.

The umbrella group of the Organizations of Genocide Survivors, Ibuka had asked earlier that Kabuga be moved for trial in Rwanda, where they said he would also serve his term, if convicted.

Dr. Alphonse Muleefu, an international criminal law expert, stated that: “The statute that established the Mechanism reserved cases of the most senior leaders to the Mechanism, but I think the Mechanism can see how it can bring justice closer to the victims.”

“Just like the Mechanism’s Prosecutor had earlier requested for Kabuga to be transferred to The Hague, he can, in the same way request for a trial to be conducted in Rwanda.”

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The academician also underlined that the same statute provides for concurrent jurisdiction.

This, he explained, means that “national jurisdictions are not completely prohibited from prosecuting those cases if the Mechanism agrees.”

Muleefu is also of the opinion that ordinary people would ably observe the proceedings if the trial takes place in Rwanda.

Wednesday’s ruling came after a French court turned down the former businessman’s bail application on May 27.

Kabuga last appeared in court on 27 May, a week after more time was given to his lawyers to prepare their case.

On Wednesday, Richard Gisagara, a Rwandan lawyer based in France who is following up on the case, stated that the Paris Court of Appeal rejected all of Kabuga’s pleas and then ruled that he be handed over to the Mechanism, specifically its Arusha branch in Tanzania.

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Gisagara added: “I think he is now going to appeal to another court, the Cour de Cassation.”

Just last week, William Sekule, the duty judge at the Arusha branch of the Mechanism ruled that Kabuga will be transferred to Arusha, Tanzania once conditions allow.

The Mechanism’s prosecutor had filed an urgent motion seeking the temporary transfer of Kabuga to The Hague citing the ongoing Covid-19 crisis which temporarily halted air travel.

However, Sekule ruled that there was no need for the temporary transfer even before the suspect exhausts the ongoing process on extradition in French courts.

Kabuga has opposed his extradition and wants to be tried but in France.

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Earlier, Gisagara had noted that the judicial proceedings in France could take a few months before a decision is made.

After his interrogation by prosecution last month, Kabuga also made his first court appearance in the Paris Court of Appeal, on May 20.

He was indicted by the now-defunct United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), in 1997 which was later amended in 2011. The Mechanism took over from the ICTR.

He was indicted on seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination, all in relation to crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in Rwanda.

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