Rwanda genocide: Félicien Kabuga’s trial opens in The Hague


The trial of one of the last fugitives accused of spreading hate propaganda and arming militias during the 1994 Rwandan genocide has opened at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague.

Before opening the statements, the judges said that 87-year-old Félicien Kabuga refused to attend, but decided that the trial would go ahead.

He is being tried before the International Remains Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), which prosecutors say is a “significant” contribution to the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The prosecutor claims that Kabuga’s Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) broadcast genocidal propaganda and accuses it of arming the dreaded Interahamwe militia.

“The charges against Kabuga reflect his wealthy and well-connected domestic status,” prosecutor Rashid S. Rashid said in his opening statement.

He said the case reflects Kabuga’s “individual responsibility for serious crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide”.

Kabuga was arrested in May 2020 in a modest apartment in Paris, after 26 years on the run, living under an assumed name.

As president of RTLM, he was one of Rwanda’s richest and most influential men among the Hutu elite.

The IRMCT prosecutor says he did not use a machete or pick up a microphone to broadcast hatred, but his behavior since 1992 indicated consistent anti-Tutsi animosity.

The judges were told that around 800,000 people died in just 100 days.

Kabuga pleaded not guilty when he first appeared in court in November 2020.

In a statement released by his son on Wednesday, Kabuga said he did not trust his lawyer, but said the court had refused his request to choose another.

“Therefore, I am forced to be represented by an attorney I do not trust and I am denied access to my property in order to retain the attorney of my choice,” the statement reads.

Kabuga faces up to life in prison if convicted. His lawyers had previously argued he was too ill to stand trial, but judges and court-appointed doctors disagreed.

His indictment states that he is accused of “genocide, direct and public genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and politically motivated persecution, extermination and murder as a crime against humanity, committed in Rwanda in 1994.”