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UN court rules Rwandan genocide suspect mentally unfit to stand trial

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A UN war crimes court has ruled that 88-year-old Rwandan genocide suspect Félicien Kabuga is no longer capable of “meaningful participation” in his trial.

The court said their conclusion was based on information obtained from medical records and staff who care for him which suggest “a significant decline in Kabuga’s ability to care for himself.”

“The trial chamber finds Mr Kabuga is no longer capable of meaningful participation in his trial,” the Hague-based International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) said in an order published on Tuesday.

The court suggested that because Kabuga is unlikely to regain fitness, the judges should adopt an “alternative procedure that resembles a trial as closely as possible, but without the possibility of a conviction.”

Kabuga is one of the last fugitives accused of broadcasting hateful propaganda and arming militias in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

He was arrested in May 2020 at a modest apartment in Paris where he was living under a pseudonym after 26 years on the run.

He pleaded not guilty at his first tribunal appearance in November 2020.

Genocidal propaganda

As president of Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), he had been one of Rwanda’s wealthiest and most influential men among the Hutu elite.

Kabuga’s trial began last September before the IRMCT for what prosecutors say was his “substantial” contributions to the genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda.

Prosecutors say Kabuga’s radio station RTLM broadcast genocidal propaganda and accuse him of arming the ‘Interahamwe’ militia, widely considered to be the main culprits behind the killings.

IRMCT prosecutors say he did not wield a machete or pick up a microphone to broadcast hate but his conduct since 1992 pointed to a consistent anti-Tutsi agenda.

They told judges that an estimated 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days.

“The charges against Kabuga reflect his status as a wealthy and well-connected insider,” prosecutor Rashid S. Rashid said in his opening statement last September.

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