HomeAfricaRwandan Genocide Survivors Petition International Court Over Trial Suspension of Mastermind Suspect

Rwandan Genocide Survivors Petition International Court Over Trial Suspension of Mastermind Suspect

Survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, under their lobby group Ibuka, have petitioned the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) over the suspension of Felicien Kabuga’s trial on grounds of dementia. The UN court suspended his trial to examine independent medical reports on Kabuga’s fitness to stand trial. The Rwandan lobby group said that by taking this path, the tribunal had fallen into the trap of agreeing with Kabuga’s defence team’s tactics to evade justice.

Ibuka also expressed its concern that the suspension would enable Kabuga to escape justice even after being apprehended. Kabuga, who is now 90, is accused of bankrolling the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. He is alleged to have used his wealth to buy machetes that were used by Interehamwe militias to kill Tutsis.

Ibuka has objected to the suspension and the way the trial has been generally handled. It has said that since the trial began, the court has compromised a lot, to the point of reducing the time of Kabuga’s hearing to two hours a day.

Jean Damascene Bizimana, Rwanda’s Minister of National Unity and Civic Engagement, said that those machetes were paid for by Kabuga. In 1997, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) charged Kabuga with seven counts of genocide, including complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.

Kabuga fled to Switzerland immediately after the genocide and lived in some European countries before settling in Kenya, where he is alleged to have received protection through his political connections. He was off the radar for years until his wife Josephine died in 2017, and he sent a message which was read at the requiem mass, reminding the world that he was still alive. French intelligence agents trailed his children, leading them to an apartment in a Paris suburb of Asnieres-Sur-Seine, and ending a several-year manhunt spanning several countries.

After 26 years of evading justice, Kabuga’s arrest was a big relief for survivors and a win for international justice, setting up a trial for one of the remaining genocide masterminds. However, Ibuka has objected to the suspension of his trial and has said that the tribunal has only been focused on giving Kabuga’s defence team what it wants.

The group has pointed out that many people, also of Kabuga’s age, have been waiting for justice to be served, and some have died before seeing it. Ibuka has expressed its concern that Kabuga might die before justice is served, given the pace at which the case is taking and the potential for further delay.

The Rwandan genocide was one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, resulting in the deaths of around 800,000 people. The majority of the victims were Tutsi, and the genocide was carried out by Hutu extremists. The genocide began on April 7, 1994, after the death of the Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu.

His death was caused by a plane crash that remains a mystery to this day. The Hutu extremists saw this as an opportunity to launch a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Tutsi population.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-led rebel group, fought against the Hutu extremists and eventually took control of the country in July 1994. The genocide ended when the RPF took control of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. The aftermath of the genocide has been marked by efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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