The trial of Rwandan genocide suspect Félicien Kabuga has been put on hold by the United Nations’ International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals as his health is evaluated to determine whether he’s fit to continue his presence in court.
According to the Hague-based tribunal, it received an independent medical report evaluating the ability of the 90-year-old to stand trial and will hold additional hearings regarding the matter later in March.
“It is appropriate to maintain the stay of evidentiary hearings pending the resolution of the issue of Mr Kabuga’s fitness to stand trial,” presiding judge Lord Iain Bonomy said in a court order dated March 10, 2023.
The court has since requested the three medical experts who prepared the report to provide their testimonies to the judges, which will begin next week and continue until March 29. The testimonies will assist the court in determining “the future course of the trial.”
“The prosecution and defence will address the court on the issue afterwards,” said the judge.
Kabuga’s trial began before United Nations’ International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals on September 29, 2022, after being postponed for nine months following his ill health.
Initially, a French court had ordered that the suspect be transferred to the Mechanism’s branch in Arusha, Tanzania, for his trial, which was supposed to commence at the end of 2021. The directive, however, was suspended indefinitely, and Kabuga was told to appear in court three times a week for at least two hours, either in person or through a video link.
Kabuga is facing charges of genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; and crimes against humanity like persecution on political grounds; extermination; and murder, all committed in Rwanda in 1994.
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According to the charges against him, Kabuga co-founded Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). This notorious radio station significantly fueled hatred and violence against Tutsis and others during the Rwandan genocide. The indictment claims that Kabuga and others collaborated to disseminate anti-Tutsi propaganda to eliminate the ethnic group from Rwanda.
The indictment further alleges that RTLM’s broadcasts incited the commission of genocide and persecution by targeting Tutsi individuals and those perceived as allies of the Rwandan Patriotic Front and providing information facilitating their killing. Kabuga is accused of being complicit in these crimes by participating in a joint criminal enterprise with others involved in RTLM’s operations and aiding and abetting the criminal conduct of RTLM journalists, the infamous Interahamwe militia, and other perpetrators.
Additionally, Kabuga is charged with providing material, logistical, financial, and moral support to the Interahamwe, who committed acts of violence against Tutsis and others in several Rwandan prefectures. He is accused of fundraising to purchase weapons and ammunition and assisting in importing arms and ammunition that were later distributed to the Interahamwe in Gisenyi préfecture to commit crimes.
Kabuga was apprehended in France in May 2020, more than two decades after he went into hiding. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on November 11, 2020, and is currently being held in the Mechanism’s detention unit in The Hague.