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Félicien Kabuga: French court backs extradition of Rwanda genocide suspect

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  • Rwandan genocide

image copyrightEPA

image captionFélicien Kabuga, once one of Rwanda’s richest men, used 28 aliases to evade capture

France’s top appeals court has agreed to extradite the alleged financier of the Rwandan genocide, Félicien Kabuga, to face trial in Tanzania.

Mr Kabuga, in his 80s, was arrested in May at his home outside Paris after 26 years on the run.

Some 800,000 people were killed in the 1994 genocide.

Mr Kabuga is alleged to have funnelled money to militia groups as chairman of the national defence fund. He denies all the charges.

During a court appearance in May, he described the accusations as “lies”.

His lawyers had argued that he was too frail to be sent to face trial at the UN tribunal in the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

  • Africa Live: More on this and other stories

  • How Félicien Kabuga evaded capture for 26 years
  • Orphaned by genocide, reunited by WhatsApp

Who is Félicien Kabuga?

  • Considered the richest man in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide
  • Made his fortune from tea in the 1970s and ventured into many other sectors at home and abroad
  • Was close to the ruling MRND party – and related by marriage to President Juvénal Habyarimana, whose death triggered the genocide
  • Accused of being the top sponsor of the genocide plan and using his business and premises to organise and fund the killing
  • The main owner of the private radio station RTLM that was accused of inciting ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis
  • The United States had offered a reward of $5m (£4.1m) for information leading to his arrest

What is he accused of?

Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, Mr Kabuga is accused of financing the Rwandan genocide.

He is alleged to have backed and armed ethnic Hutu militias who slaughtered about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

He set up the notorious Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), a Rwandan broadcaster that actively encouraged people to search out and kill anyone ethnic Tutsis.

In 1997 he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on seven counts including genocide and crimes against humanity.

What happened in court?

Mr Kabuga’s lawyers argued that their client should not be transferred to Tanzania for health reasons, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also said that the appeals court had violated the constitution by failing to provide a thorough examination of international arrest warrants.

But these arguments were dismissed by the court.

The extradition ruling upheld one by a lower court on 3 June that Mr Kabuga’s health was not “incompatible” with a transfer to a UN tribunal.

According to the court, Mr Kabuga is really 85 but says he is 87.

How did he evade capture for so long?

Police say Mr Kabuga used 28 aliases.

While on the run, he is alleged to have stayed in various countries in East Africa, including Kenya, where he and his family had business interests.

The French public prosecutor’s office said he had been living under a false identity with the complicity of his children.

He was finally detained in a dawn raid on 16 May in the Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine.

image copyrightAFP
image captionFélicien Kabuga was found hiding in a flat in Asnières-sur-Seine

What is the court in Arusha?

In the months that followed the genocide, the UN Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, northern Tanzania.

It was set up to judge the ringleaders of the genocide and more than 60 people were sentenced.

That court was formally closed in 2015 and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) took over its mission to find the last genocidaires.

It has no police force, nor powers of arrest, instead relying on national governments to act on its behalf.

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media captionBetween April and July 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days.

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