By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Suspected Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga goes on trial in The Hague on Thursday, one of the last main suspects in the 1994 ethnic slaughter that shocked the world.
Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, the 87-year-old Kabuga is accused of setting up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to “kill Tutsi cockroaches” and of supplying death squads with machetes.
The trial opens at 0800 GMT at the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which is pursuing cases left over from a war crimes tribunal for Rwanda.
Prosecutors and the defence will make their opening statements on Thursday and Friday, with evidence to start on October 5.
Kabuga’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea at a first appearance in 2020 and have repeatedly tried but failed to halt the trial on health grounds.
A frail Kabuga appeared in August before the judges in a wheelchair but it was not known whether he will be in court on Thursday as judges have said he can attend the hearings via a video link.
More than a quarter of a century after the genocide that devastated Rwanda, the trial is being closely watched in the small central African nation, including in Kabuga’s native village of Nyange.
The UN says 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda in 1994 in a 100-day rampage.
An ally of Rwanda’s then-ruling party, Kabuga allegedly helped create the Interahamwe Hutu militia group and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), whose broadcasts incited people to murder.
The radio station also identified the hiding places of Tutsis where they were later killed, prosecutors said in the indictment.
Kabuga also allegedly “distributed machetes” to genocidal groups and ordered them to kill Tutsis.
More than 50 witnesses are expected to appear for the prosecution, which said they needed about 40 hours to wrap up their case.
After fleeing Rwanda, Kabuga spent more than 20 years evading an arrest warrant issued in 1997 by using a series of false passports.
Investigators say he was helped by a network of former Rwandan allies to evade justice in several countries before he was finally arrested in a small apartment in Paris.
UN Speaks Out With Joy
The UN secretary-general’s special adviser on genocide prevention, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, on Wednesday welcomed the opening of the trial;
“Our collective commitment not to forget constitutes a commitment to prevent,” said Nderitu. “Accountability is prevention in itself and hence a deterrent for future crimes.”
She said fair and credible judicial proceedings can provide victims with a form of redress for the gross and systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian law that they have endured.
”These measures can also help prevent and address feelings of frustration and bitterness, and the possible desire for retaliation. On the contrary, when justice is not served, lingering perceptions of injustice can become a risk factor for further violence and possibly, atrocity crimes,” she said.
Nderitu called on all member states to continue to fully cooperate with the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in the identification, arrest, detention, surrender, and transfer of accused persons still at large.