By Spy Uganda
Despite his clear role in the Tutsi genocide, the Rwandan financier of a notorious radio station will not be convicted by the UN tribunal at the Hague because he is suffering from extensive dementia.
For decades, Felicien Kabuga was one of the most sought-after fugitives accused of genocide, the most serious crime under international law.
As a result of his extensive wealth and use of 28 aliases, he managed to evade capture by authorities for decades while facing the prospect of a trial for his role in funding Free Radio and Television of the Thousand Hills or RTLM, a radio station directly linked to the massacre of Tutsi in Rwanda. The massacre has been widely regarded as genocide by the international community.
In 2020, international law advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief when he was captured in France – finally, the man who helped project hateful rhetoric on Rwandan airwaves and imported hundreds of thousands of machetes to slaughter civilians would be held accountable.
In spite of this, a UN court established to convict those responsible for the genocide that occurred over a 100-day period deemed him unfit for conviction due to extensive dementia.
“The Trial Chamber finds that Mr Kabuga is no longer capable of meaningfully participating in his trial,” the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals or IRMCT said in a ruling published on Wednesday.
“Continuing the trial would violate his fundamental rights, notwithstanding any arrangements that could be adopted,” the ruling continued.
The ruling is disappointing to survivors and genocide specialists who have often highlighted the Rwandan Genocide’s distinct brutality.
Why Is This Important?
After the Rwandan Genocide, international courts believed that they could provide fair and just trials that could contribute to healing in the affected societies, as well as give survivors of crimes some satisfaction from the convictions.
When figures like Kabuga are not convicted, those affected – mostly the Tutsi group in Rwanda in this case – feel like the perpetrators have managed to get away with their crimes.
It also casts doubt on the ability of courts or tribunals to effectively replace the local judiciary. Tribunals are legal institutions where the different levels of a judiciary, from the basic court to the appeals courts, focus on solving a specific dispute and are usually based in one building.
Tribunals for war crimes and genocide are established to avoid scenarios in which the local judiciary would have to decide cases where its objectivity is questioned or its capacities are deemed inadequate to deal with such crimes. In the past, heinous war criminals were often tried by martial courts or summarily sentenced, perpetuating future crime and discontent.