Rwanda: Kabuga Will Be Transferred to Arusha, Not Hague - Judge

A visitor observes some pictures of kids killed in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi (file photo).

Félicien Kabuga, who was arrested this month in France for crimes related to the Genocide against the Tutsi after 26 years on the run, will be transferred to Arusha, Tanzania once conditions allow, a judge has ruled.

William Sekule, the duty judge at the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, made the ruling on Thursday following a motion by prosecutors to temporarily transfer Kabuga to The Hague.

The Chief Prosecutor of the Mechanism, Serge Brammertz, had filed an urgent motion requesting that Kabuga be temporarily transferred to The Hague in the Netherlands given travel restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Kabuga, often referred to as 'Financier' of the Genocide, was arrested outside the capital Paris before he appeared in court this week.

He denied all charges against him.

Kabuga faces seven counts including genocide, complicity in genocide (in the alternative to genocide), direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (persecution and extermination).

The United Nations has sought Kabuga's arrest for over two decades. He was initially indicted by the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in November 1997.

Judge Sekule reiterated that the rules reflect that accused persons indicted by the ICTR, such as Kabuga, will be transferred to and detained at the Arusha branch of the Mechanism from where proceedings will be conducted.

He argued that history has shown that those indicted by the ICTR and arrested in France have been detained and processed there between three and eight months prior to their transfer to Arusha.

"And nothing in the Motion suggests that the conclusion of Mr Kabuga's process in France is imminent," he said in a ruling made public on Thursday.

The judge also contended that the motion didn't demonstrate that Kabuga's anticipated transfer to Arusha was an actual or likely impediment to his transfer into the custody of the Mechanism.

"If transfer to the Arusha Branch is not possible at the relevant time (due to Covid-19 travel restrictions), appropriate relief may be sought," one of the UN's longest-serving judges said in the ruling.

Genocide survivors, through their umbrella organisation Ibuka, have asked for Kabuga to be transferred to Rwanda instead, a call that has since been backed by different other groups, including scholars.

The same call was recently reiterated by the African Court for Human and People's Rights, which said in a statement that justice would be better served if Kabuga's case is referred to the national jurisdiction in Rwanda.

"This not only makes practical sense but also has a symbolic value for affected persons and would contribute towards full healing, justice and sustainable peace in Rwanda," reads part of a statement by the continental court.

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