The man accused of providing the funds necessary to import the main tools of the genocide – the machetes – before the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was captured in France. Félicien Kabuga is said to have been the main financier of Hutu extremists during the 1994 massacres against Tutsis in Rwanda.
It is estimated that one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed within 100 days.
Before the genocide, Kabuga was a well-known successful businessman in Rwanda. Under the regime of President Juvenal Habyarimana, which lasted from 1973 to 1994, he held significant political power.
When the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), backed by the Ugandan army, advanced to take control of the country, Kabuga fled. Just like other members of the genocide government.
In 1997, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda – an international tribunal created by the UN in 1994 to try those responsible for the genocide – indicted Kabuga for his role.
The tribunal, which was located in Arusha, Tanzania, was dissolved in 2015. Its work was taken over by the United Nations International Mechanism for the Establishment of Criminal Courts. It was created to fulfill the remaining functions of the Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Kabuga, who is 84, appeared in French court this week. He will decide whether to hand him over to the court, which is based in The Hague, the Netherlands and Arusha. Kabuga asked to be tried by a French court.
The International Criminal Court was established to hear cases of crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression. The exceptions relate to the cases concerning Rwanda and Yugoslavia, which are referred to the Residual International Mechanism for the criminal courts. It is the main judicial body responsible for cases against former genocide perpetrators in both countries.
The task of the International Criminal Court and the criminal court is to promote international justice. This means that cases are decided and orchestrated by judges, lawyers and international institutions. The courts also execute decisions. The rationale is that they promote universal concepts of justice over local justice.
But Rwandans are skeptical of the court, just as they were of its predecessor. Through my work in Rwanda, I have found that many Rwandans do not trust the intentions of the international community for justice. This was fueled by the ineffectiveness of justice and reconciliation for those affected by the genocide.
Survivors of the genocide would therefore ideally like Kabuga to be prosecuted in Rwanda. But this will not be possible – for legal and political reasons. Legally, the Rwanda National Prosecution Authority has already publicly declared its commitment to assist the court.
Politically, the Rwandan government must find a balance between internal apprehension and diplomatic relations. Turning your back on the courts could give rise to a hornet and damage fragile relationships with countries like France.
From my experience working in Rwanda, Rwandans perceive international justice as an aid to the conscience of the international community, which did not intervene before or during the genocide. Many Rwandans believe that they are trying to remove this guilt by promoting justice for the international public rather than for the victims.
This is reinforced by the fact that during the 20 years of existence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he prosecuted 93 people and only convicted 61. In comparison, the local authorities of Rwanda gacaca courts, which operated between 2001 and 2012
and dealing with crimes committed during the genocide, would give the accused the opportunity to confess and try to reconcile with those they touched or to defend their innocence. Those who admitted their crimes often received fines and community service while those who pleaded innocence were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms. It is estimated that two million cases have been tried. About 1.6 million have been convicted or have confessed to their crimes. Rwandans welcome the success of the courts because they have fostered reconciliation and justice for Rwandan society.
In addition to this, the multiple early releases of criminals convicted by the courts of the United Nations introduce even greater skepticism.
During my research, Rwandans often wanted to see and confront those who had killed or raped family members.
They argued that the fact that these people were brought to justice in another country hampered justice. They believed that the accused had not really paid for their crime, whether through prison terms, reprisals or reconciliation. And those convicted in the international system were sentenced to prison terms which were often more comfortable in terms of access to resources than they would have been in Rwanda.
Kabuga’s case is complicated. The initial arrest warrant was issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is now dissolved. Logic would suggest that this should now simply fall under the jurisdiction of the Residual International Mechanism for the criminal courts.
As a result, Rwanda is unable to simply request the extradition of Kabuga.
There are other considerations against his extradition, even if it were possible.
First, doubts arise as to whether the Rwandan justice system could give Kabuga a fair trial. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused the Rwandan justice system of unfair practices and heavy political interference.
Second, France may not want to extradite him given the old alliances between the French government and the former Habyarimana regime. Researcher Andrew Wallis shows how this relationship helped facilitate the training of genocide squads, interahamwe. It also facilitated the escape of genocidal leaders in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and in France.
Another consideration is that there are still Rwandans who were allegedly involved in the genocide who were never convicted and who continue to reside in France. Kabuga is perhaps the most infamous European resident, but he is not alone. An example is Agathe Habyarimana, former wife of the Rwandan president and main actor in the planning of the genocide, who lives in France.
However, what happens next is the responsibility of the residual International Mechanism for the criminal courts.
Jonathan Beloff, Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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