A Rwandan tycoon charged with genocide in 1994 and arrested in France over the weekend will challenge a bid to extradite him to an international tribunal, his lawyers said Tuesday.
Felicien Kabuga, 84, one of the last key fugitives wanted over the genocide, was arrested on Saturday at his home outside Paris after living under a false identity for years.
He appeared in the first stage of a process before Paris prosecutors on Tuesday, who may see him handed over to an international tribunal.
In 1997, the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted Kabuga – once one of the richest men in Rwanda – on seven counts, including genocide.
The tribunal formally closed in 2015, and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has since taken over its duties.
If extradited, it is anticipated that Kabuga will be tried at the MICT branch in Arusha, Tanzania.
His lawyers Laurent Bayon and Emmanuel Altit said in a statement that Kabuga “opposes his transfer to Arusha”
Kabuga had been escorted from his Paris jail to the Paris Court of Appeal hearing with prosecutors. He then issued formal notice of the MICT arrest warrant.
He will appear before the court of appeal ‘s investigative chamber, which will examine the warrant and give an opinion as to whether it should be extradited to the MICT.
That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, but the defense wants it to be delayed until May 27.
The chamber will have 15 days to make its decision after the hearing.
Even if the chamber rules in favor of extradition, Kabuga still can bring his case to the Cassation Court of France, which would have two months to give a ruling.
During the 1994 genocide, about 800,000 people — Tutsis but also moderate Hutus — were slaughtered by ethnic Hutu extremists for more than 100 days.
Kabuga is accused of creating the notorious Interahamwe militia that carried out massacres, as well as the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines that incited people to murder in its broadcasts.
He is alleged to have used his wealth and influence during the genocide as chairman of the Fund de Defense Nationale (FDN) fund, to funnel money to militia groups.
The US department of state hailed the arrest as “a milestone for international justice, and a message to all fugitives indicted for genocide that they will be brought to justice.”
Together with former Secretary of Defense Augustin Bizimana and top military figure Protais Mpiranya — both still at large — Kabuga was one of the three most significant suspects still being sought in the genocide.
His lawyers’ statement expressed frustration at the language of the Paris police communiqué about his detention on Saturday, which they said “presented him as one of the main instigators of the genocide when no trial has taken place”.