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Rwandan genocide survivors criticize UN court’s call to permanently halt trial of elderly suspects

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda on Tuesday criticized a call by appeals judges at a United Nations court to indefinitely halt the trial of an alleged financier and supporter of the massacre. due to the poor health of the accused.

Monday’s ruling sends the case back to the court’s courtroom with instructions to order a stay of proceedings. That probably means that Félicien Kabuga, who is almost 90, will never be prosecuted. His trial, which began last year at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, was halted in June because his dementia made him unable to participate in proceedings.

Appeals court judges also rejected a proposal to create an alternative procedure that would have allowed evidence to be heard, but without the possibility of a verdict.

The chief prosecutor of the UN court, Serge Brammertz, said the ruling “should be respected even if the outcome is unsatisfactory”.

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Kabuga, who was arrested in France in 2020 after years on the run from justice, is accused of encouraging and financing the mass murder of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. His trial came nearly three decades after the 100-day massacre left 800,000 dead.

Kabuga has pleaded not guilty to charges including genocide and persecution. He remains detained in a UN detention unit in The Hague, but can be released as a result of Monday’s ruling.

“I think the world is not good for us. What mattered to us survivors after Kabuga’s arrest was at least justice,” said Francine Uwamariya, a genocide survivor who says she lost her entire family at the hands of Kabuga’s henchmen.

“Look, the trial should have continued without Kabuga. He was the planner and financier of the genocide. The court appears to be on the killer’s side when it should be neutral,” Uwamariya said.

Uwamariya’s sentiment was echoed by Naphatal Ahishakiye, another genocide survivor and executive secretary of Ibuka, an organization of survivors in Rwanda, who said there was enough evidence to convict Kabuga.

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“It is extremely disturbing on the part of the survivors, who will see Kabuga on the loose. Justice must be felt by those who have been wronged,” Ahishakiye said.

Ibuka has filed a case against Kabuga in Kigali, seeking court approval to sell all of Kabuga’s property to fund reparations and help survivors.

Brammertz expressed his solidarity with victims and survivors of the genocide.

“They have maintained their faith in the legal process for the past three decades. I know this outcome will be distressing and disheartening to them,” he said. “When I was recently in Rwanda, I heard very clearly how important it was for this process to be completed.”

Brammertz said his team of prosecutors would continue to help Rwanda and other countries seek accountability for genocide crimes and pointed to the May arrest of another fugitive, Fulgence Kayishema, as an example that suspects can still face justice.

Kayishema was indicted by a UN court for allegedly organizing the massacre of more than 2,000 ethnic Tutsi refugees – men, women and children – in a Catholic church on April 15, 1994, during the early days of the genocide. He is expected to be tried in Rwanda.

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Brammertz said his office will significantly increase assistance to Rwanda’s Attorney General, “including by providing our evidence and developed expertise, to ensure that more genocide fugitives go to trial for their alleged crimes.”


Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed.

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