A Rwandan tycoon charged over the country’s 1994 genocide and arrested in France over the weekend will challenge a bid to extradite him to an international court, his lawyers said Tuesday.
Felicien Kabuga, 84, one of the last key fugitives wanted over the genocide, was arrested at his home outside Paris on Saturday after living for years under a false identity.
He appeared Tuesday before Paris prosecutors in the first stage of a process that may see him handed over to an international court.
Kabuga — once one of Rwanda’s richest men — was indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1997 on seven counts, including genocide.
The tribunal formally closed in 2015 and its duties have since been taken over by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT).
If extradited, Kabuga is expected to be tried at the MICT’s branch in Arusha in Tanzania.
Kabuga “opposes his transfer to Arusha”, said his lawyers Laurent Bayon and Emmanuel Altit in a statement.
Kabuga was escorted from his Paris prison to the hearing with prosecutors at the Paris court of appeal. He was then formally notified of the MICT arrest warrant.
– ‘A milestone’ –
He will appear before the investigation chamber of the court of appeal which will examine the warrant and give an opinion over whether he should be extradited to the MICT.
That hearing should take place on Wednesday but the defence wants it delayed to May 27.
After the hearing, the chamber will have 15 days to deliver its ruling.
Even if the chamber rules in favour of extradition, Kabuga can still take his case to France’s Court of Cassation which would have two months to give a ruling.
Around 800,000 people — Tutsis but also moderate Hutus — were slaughtered over 100 days by ethnic Hutu extremists during the 1994 genocide.
Kabuga is accused of creating the notorious Interahamwe militia that carried out massacres and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines which, in its broadcasts, incited people to murder.
He is alleged to have used his wealth and influence during the genocide to funnel money to militia groups as chairman of the Fonds de Defense Nationale (FDN) fund.
The US State Department hailed the arrest as “a milestone for international justice, and a message to all fugitives indicted for genocide that they will be brought to justice.”
Along with former defence minister Augustin Bizimana and top-ranking military figure Protais Mpiranya — both still at large — Kabuga was one of the three most significant suspects still sought over the genocide.
The statement by his lawyers expressed anger over the wording of the communique by Paris police over his arrest Saturday which they said “presented him as one of the main instigators of the genocide when no trial has taken place”.