In an initial appearance before the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) Wednesday, a Rwandan businessman suspected of financing Rwanda’s 1994 genocide entered a plea of “not guilty” to numerous genocide-related charges.
The 87-year-old Félicien Kabuga remained silent throughout the tribunal proceedings. At the request of Kabuga’s lawyer, Judge Iain Bonomy registered a plea of “not guilty” in accordance with the IRMCT’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence.
Kabuga was the president of the Comité d’Initiative of Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM), a radio station that operated in Rwanda during its 1994 genocide. It is alleged that Kabuga used RTLM to incite violence and ethnic hatred between the Hutu ethnic majority and Tutsi minority. It is further alleged that he established the National Defence Fund to finance the mass slaughter of Tutsis by the Interahamwe militant group.
Kabuga was first indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on November 26, 1997, on charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and the crimes of extermination and persecution. He was finally arrested in May, pursuant to a warrant of arrest and order for transfer issued by the IRMCT in 2013.
The order for transfer originally provided for Kabuga’s transfer to the Arusha branch of the IRMCT. However, after Kabuga’s counsel filed an urgent motion for amendment, Bonomy agreed to modify the order such that Kabuga would be held temporarily at the Hague branch, pending medical assessment. Kabuga was transferred to The Hague branch on October 26.
A final decision as to the location of Kabuga’s trial remains to be made.