Rwandan 'genocide financier' due in court in The Hague

The Hague (AFP) –


A suspected financier of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Felicien Kabuga, will make his first appearance at a UN court in The Hague on Wednesday following his arrest in France.

Kabuga, who spent more than two decades on the run, was one of the world's most wanted fugitives, accused of abetting the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Once one of Rwanda's richest men, Kabuga, who is in his 80s, allegedly helped set up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to "kill the Tutsi cockroaches."

He was arrested near Paris on May 16 to face a 1997 indictment by the now-closed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and transferred from France to The Hague in October.

His initial hearing before a pre-trial judge on Wednesday at 2:00 pm (1300 GMT) will take place at the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which has taken on cases left over from the ICTR.

The judge said in a written order this week that Kabuga could either attend in person or via video-link, with an initial medical report recommending he do so via video because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutors are expected to tell the judge about their state of readiness for a trial.

Kabuga denies all the charges.

- Incited to murder -

The UN says 800,000 people were murdered in a 100-day rampage that began in April 1994.

Kabuga allegedly helped create the Interahamwe Hutu militia group and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines, whose broadcasts incited people to murder.

He is also accused of helping to buy machetes in 1993 that were distributed to genocidal groups.

Kabuga spent years on the run using a succession of false passports, with investigators saying that he had been helped by a network of former Rwandan allies to evade justice.

Following his arrest in a small apartment near Paris, his lawyers argued that Kabuga -- who says he is aged 87 but according to the arrest warrant is 84 -- should face trial in France.

But France's top court ruled he should be moved to UN custody.

Kabuga was initially to be transferred to the UN court's facility in Arusha, Tanzania, which took over the ICTR's duties when it formally closed in 2015.

But a judge ruled he should first be taken to The Hague for a medical examination, and it was not immediately known when or if Kabuga might be transferred to Arusha.