Rwanda: Genocide Suspect Kabuga Pleads Not Guilty Before UN Tribunal

Pictures of Felicen Kabuga on the U.S. State Department's website about fugitives from justice.
12 November 2020

Genocide suspect Félicien Kabuga appeared, for the first time, before the UN court in The Netherlands, on Wednesday, November 11, where he heard all Genocide his charges read during a live court broadcast.

Kabuga, who was present in court with his lawyers, was informed of his rights before the Registrar spelled out details pertaining to his Genocide charges.

The defence counsel, Emmanuel Altit, then told the court that he would appreciate it if the judge considered his client's "non-response as a plea of not guilty," and as such, the court registered a plea of "not guilty" for Kabuga.

At the lawyer request, Kabuga pleaded not guilty after he remained silent during his initial court appearance.

Judge Iain Bonomy therefore entered the not guilty plea.

The judge also ordered that the court gets full assessment of Kabuga's health.

Six months

The court is expected to make announcements regarding what next in the coming days.

Prosecutors are still investigating Kabuga's Genocide related case and they need at least six more months to gather more evidence.

Prosecution team has started investigations and there is a team in Kigali already.

According to the chief prosecutor of the UN International Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Serge Brammetz, a complete amended indictment is expected to be provided in about six months' time.

Kabuga is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and extermination and persecution as crimes against humanity, all committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Court heard that Kabuga was the President of the Comité provisoire of the Fonds de défense nationale (National Defence Fund) from about April 25, 1994 to July 1994 and President of the Comité d'Initiative of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) during the time of the crimes pleaded in the indictment.

"His powers in RTLM accorded him the authority to compel RTLM journalists to follow his orders," the IRMCT Registrar, Abubacarr Tambadou, told the court, reading from the indictment.

During the Genocide, Kabuga was the principal shareholder and president of RTLM which was used in calling the population to massacre their compatriots.

The radio gave, regularly, detailed information about the people to be massacred and where to find them.

Court heard that through his powers, Kabuga had very close scrutiny of the radio's operations, and was on top of things when it came to hiring and firing staff as well as giving instructions to them.

Kabuga, court heard, controlled the radio's broadcasts as well as defended it against criticism.

Court heard how Kabuga was responsible for Genocide against the Tutsi as he participated in plots to identify the Tutsi to be killed, as well as conspiracy to commit Genocide through his radio's many broadcast statements inciting people to kill the Tutsi.

Kabuga was very close to the genocidal regime president Juvénal Habyarimana. One of Kabuga's daughters is married to the former president's son.

Among others, Kabuga financed large purchases of crude weapons including machetes which were used by the killers during the Genocide. During months preceding the Genocide, the businessman bought more than half a million of dollars worth of machetes.

Kabuga's crimes, the court heard, were not only limited to his influence in RTLM, since he also supported interahamwe killers countrywide in various ways including supplying cash, arms, uniform and other means, as they massacred the Tutsi.

Between April 25 and July 17, 1994, for example, the court heard, Kabuga "provided additional support" in the form of cash to support the hundreds of killers committing massacres in the infamous Commune Rouge of Gisenyi.

He also provided money, uniforms and weapons to killers who massacred the Tutsi in the Kimironko neighbourhood of Kigali where he had a home, and in the Bisesero hills of Kibuye, court heard.

"Interahamwe continued to report their killings to Kabuga," the Registrar told the court, adding, "Kabuga had de-facto authority over Interahamwe in Kimironko who committed killings."

Court also heard that Kabuga "had the ability to disband" the killers, something he did not do but, instead, urged them on, with more and more support.

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