A French court has ordered Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga to be handed over to a United Nations tribunal for trial.
UN prosecutors accuse Kabuga of bankrolling and arming ethnic Hutu militias that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda during a 100-day period in 1994.
The 84-year-old is currently being held in a Paris prison. He is indicted for genocide and incitement to commit genocide, among other charges.
Kabuga’s arrest in Paris last month ended a manhunt that lasted more than 20 years.
Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, he was indicted by the tribunal in 1997 on seven counts, including genocide. He is accused of forming the notorious Interahamwe militia that carried out massacres, and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines, whose broadcasts incited people to murder.
“These are all lies. Everything I did helped the Tutsis, and my businesses offered them credit. I wasn’t going to go and kill my clients,” he told the court, speaking in Kinyarwanda.
His lawyers say he would not receive a fair trial at the tribunal, which is based in The Hague and in Arusha, Tanzania.
They also argue his health is too frail for him to be transferred to the African country, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. But the court said his health was “not incompatible” with a transfer.
“I was expecting this, because it’s a highly politicised case,” said one of his lawyers, Laurent Bayon.
“A transfer to Arusha, and the detention conditions there, would not allow him to survive, so a full trial would not be possible, neither for him nor the victims.”
If the appeal is accepted by France’s court of cassation, a decision would be issued within two months. If it endorses his transfer, he would have one month to appear before the international court.
Described as Africa’s most-wanted man, Kabuga was arrested on May 16 at his home outside Paris, where he had been living under a false name.
Last month, a judge in The Hague ruled that Kabuga should be tried in Arusha by the MICT, which took over the duties of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda when it formally closed in 2015.