Start of trial in Prosecutor v. Félicien Kabuga at the Mechanism’s Hague branch on Thursday, 29 September 2022

The Hague
Start of trial in Prosecutor v. Félicien Kabuga at the Mechanism’s Hague branch on Thursday, 29 September 2022

Opening Statements in the case of Prosecutor v. Félicien Kabuga are scheduled to be heard on Thursday, 29 September 2022 and Friday, 30 September 2022, at 10:00 CEST/11:00 EAT in the Courtroom of the Hague branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism). The Trial Chamber is scheduled to continue the case the following week, when it will commence hearing the presentation of evidence on Wednesday, 5 October 2022 at 10:00 CEST/11:00 EAT.

In anticipation of the start of trial, President Graciela Gatti Santana today issued the Order Replacing a Judge and Assigning a Reserve Judge. As a result of this Order, the Trial Chamber in this case is now composed of Judge Iain Bonomy, Presiding, Judge Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya, Judge Mustapha El Baaj, and Judge Margaret deGuzman, Reserve Judge.

The Mechanism is pleased to announce that the Public Gallery of the Courtroom will be open to the public, along with the lobby of the premises where the proceedings will be screened. The accreditation procedure for media and non-media representatives wishing to attend the Opening Statements on 29 and 30 September 2022 at the Mechanism’s Hague branch will be announced in due course.

All interested members of the public will be welcomed to attend public hearings in the Public Gallery of the Courtroom at the Mechanism’s Hague branch by following the standard procedure and in accordance with the Mechanism’s Court Calendar. For media and non-media representatives wishing to attend the presentation of evidence, scheduled to start on 5 October 2022, there will be no prior accreditation procedure requirement.

The hearings will be publicly broadcast on the Mechanism’s website with a 30-minute delay and will be available at the following link. The hearing can be followed in English, French and Kinyarwanda.

Case Background

Félicien Kabuga was the President of the Comité d’initiative of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (“RTLM”) during the time of the crimes pleaded in the Indictment and President of the Comité provisoire of the Fonds de défense nationale (“National Defence Fund”) from about 25 April 1994 to July 1994.

Kabuga is charged with genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and persecution on political grounds, extermination, and murder as crimes against humanity, committed in Rwanda in 1994.

The Indictment states that, between 6 April 1994 and 17 July 1994, genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group occurred in Rwanda, and that, throughout Rwanda, there were widespread and/or systematic attacks against the civilian population based on Tutsi ethnic identification and/or political grounds.

According to the Indictment, Kabuga, a founder of the radio station RTLM, operated it with others in a manner that furthered hatred and violence against Tutsi and others and that he and others agreed to disseminate an anti-Tutsi message with the goal to eliminate the Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda. Specifically, the Indictment alleges that RTLM directly and publicly incited the commission of genocide and persecution through denigrating and threatening broadcasts. These broadcasts expressly identified persons as Tutsi or as “accomplices” or “allies” of the Rwandan Patriotic Front and, in some instances, provided locations and other information that encouraged or facilitated their killing. The Indictment alleges that Kabuga is liable for these crimes based on his participation in a joint criminal enterprise with others involved in RTLM’s operations, as well as aiding and abetting the criminal conduct of RTLM journalists, Interahamwe, and others whose crimes were assisted or instigated by RTLM broadcasts.

Kabuga is further charged with aiding and abetting Interahamwe who killed and harmed Tutsi and others in Kigali-Ville, Gisenyi, and Kibuye prefectures by having provided material, logistical, financial, and moral support to them. As an example, the Indictment alleges that Kabuga supported a core group of Interahamwe in Kimironko, Kigali, known as “Kabuga’s Interahamwe” in numerous ways and that this group participated in attacks, killing and harming of Tutsi and others in Kigali-Ville prefecture at roadblocks, places of refuge, and houses. Kabuga is further alleged to have raised funds to purchase weapons and ammunition and to have played a role in importing arms and ammunition which were distributed to Interahamwe in Gisenyi prefecture. The Indictment alleges that these supplies were used for committing crimes in Gisenyi, Kibuye, and Kigali-Ville prefectures.

On 16 May 2020, Kabuga was arrested near Paris by French authorities as the result of a joint investigation with the Mechanism Office of the Prosecutor. On 30 September 2020, the French Cour de cassation rejected Kabuga’s appeal against the lower court’s decision authorising his transfer to the custody of the Mechanism. On 21 October 2020, Judge Iain Bonomy amended the warrant of arrest and order for transfer, and ordered that Kabuga be transferred to the Hague branch of the Mechanism. Kabuga was transferred to the Mechanism’s custody on 26 October 2020. Kabuga’s initial appearance took place on 11 November 2020, during which a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf with respect to the charges in the Indictment.

Since Kabuga’s transfer to the Hague branch, the Trial Chamber has been receiving regular twice monthly medical reports related to Kabuga’s health. It appointed three independent medical experts, as well as one Prosecution and one Defence medical expert, and received extensive medical reports related to Kabuga’s fitness to stand trial and to be detained in Arusha.

In the Decision on Félicien Kabuga’s Fitness to Stand Trial and to be Transferred to and Detained in Arusha, issued on 13 June 2022, the Trial Chamber found that the Defence had not established that Kabuga is presently unfit for trial, and decided that Kabuga shall remain detained at the Hague branch of the Mechanism and that his trial shall commence there until otherwise decided. Following certification to appeal in relation to this matter, the Appeals Chamber issued its decision on 12 August 2022 dismissing Kabuga’s appeal in its entirety.

The Pre-Trial Conference in the case was held on 18 August 2022 at the Hague branch of the Mechanism, during which time opening statements were scheduled for 29 and 30 September 2022, with the presentation of evidence scheduled to commence on 5 October 2022.

Kabuga case information