- The businessman is considered the major engineer of the Rwandan genocide.
- “The arrest of Félicien Kabuga today is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes.”
- He narrowly escaped arrest a year later in Kenya, in an attempted police operation.
Rwandan Businessman Félicien Kabuga, a fugitive who has been on the radar of international justice for many years, was finally arrested this Saturday in Paris. Mr. Kabuga is now set to face trial for having financed the 1994 Rwandan genocide. French security forces nabbed Kabuga, 84, in a dawn raid in Asnières-sur-Seine, where he had been living under a false identity.
The chief prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) at The Hague– which is handling outstanding war crimes cases for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia– described the arrest as “a sophisticated, co-ordinated operation with simultaneous searches across a number of locations.”
The businessman is considered the major engineer of the Rwandan genocide. Kabuga is the one who established the so-called National Defense Fund, which provided machetes, hoes, vehicles, and uniforms to the Interahamwe militia group, responsible for most of the killings.
According to UN figures, extremist Hutu militias massacred some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the Rwandan genocide that took place between April and June 1994. Hutu civilians and the Army were also involved in the killings.
The indictment states that Kabuga, along with other people, instigated the crimes during meetings held in various regions of the country between March and May 1994. He founded and headed a radio station that was used to spread propaganda and hate speech against the Tutsis, reveal their locations, and order their elimination.
“The arrest of Félicien Kabuga today is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes,” Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals said in a statement. “For international justice, Kabuga’s arrest demonstrates that we can succeed when we have the international community’s support,” he added.
Mr. Brammertz immensely thanked France, but elaborated that other countries had equally contributed immensely to the arrest. They include Rwanda, Belgium, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the US, Europol and Interpol.
Kabuga left his country in mid-1994 due to the advances of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, made up of Tutsi militants. He fled first to Switzerland and then to Zaire (the current Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Kenya.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, created by the UN Security Council, charged him in 1997 with seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement of genocide, and attempted genocide. All crimes were allegedly committed between April 6 and July 17, 1994.
Since the issuance of his arrest warrant, Kabuga has been living as a fugitive, evading justice. The United States offered a $5 million reward in 2002 to anyone who could give information leading to his arrest. He narrowly escaped arrest a year later in Kenya, in an attempted police operation.
Kabuga is now set to appear before a French court to confirm his identity and hear the charges he will face at the MTPI, successor institution of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
The Rwanda genocide was the culmination of decades of hatred between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority, and its aftermath is still evident in Rwanda. Authorities began exhumation of the remains of some 30,000 victims a month and a half ago. They were found in a mass gave, located in the east of the country.