from PHYLLIS BIRORI in Kigali, Rwanda
KIGALI, (CAJ News) – THE trial of Félicien Kabuga, for crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, is a significant step in efforts to ensure accountability for planning, ordering and carrying out the massacres.
The trial began on Thursday at The Hague.
Kabuga, now 89, is accused of aiding and abetting the Interahamwe – a militia attached to the ruling party who hunted down and slaughtered Tutsi men, women and children.
He is charged with genocide, incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.
He was first indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1997.
As a chief financier of the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, which during the genocide instructed people to erect barriers and carry out searches, named persons to be targeted and pointed out areas to attack, he is accused of being a mastermind of the genocide.
“All perpetrators of serious crimes committed three decades ago should be held to account, just like Kabuga,” said Lewis Mudge, Human Rights Watch Director, Central Africa.
“Questions over Kabuga’s age and whether he is fit to stand trial have only underscored how urgent it is for cases to move ahead,” Mudge said.
The United States also welcomed the opening statements in the trial of Kabuga at the Hague branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).
IRMCT is the successor mechanism to the ICTR.
Nearly three decades after the genocide, the US, through the War Crimes Rewards Programme, continues to seek information leading to the arrest of the remaining suspects indicted by the IRMCT.
“We commend the milestone of this trial and remain dedicated to pursuing justice for the victims,” said Ned Price, US Department of State spokesperson.
Between April and July 1994, Hutu political and military extremists orchestrated the killing of approximately three quarters of Rwanda’s Tutsi population.
The massacres left more than half a million people dead.
Many Hutu who attempted to hide or defend Tutsi and those who opposed the genocide were also killed.
– CAJ News