The trial of 88-year-old war crimes suspect Felicien Kabuga is to be suspended indefinitely due to health issues.
A group of Rwandan genocide survivors has criticized a UN court ruling that ordered the release of an alleged financier of the massacre, Felicien Kabuga, because he is unfit to stand trial.
Judges at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) on Monday directed the war crimes trial of 88-year-old Kabuga to be suspended indefinitely after medical examinations revealed last month that he suffers from dementia.
The IRMCT also dismissed plans for an alternate trial procedure for the former businessman for his purported involvement in the genocide, during which extremist Hutu factions killed more than 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus within a span of 100 days.
Naphtali Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of the group representing genocide survivors, expressed disappointment with the tribunal’s verdict on Tuesday, saying they are “extremely angry.”
“The ruling to potentially release Kabuga is a deliberate insult to the deep wounds that genocide survivors suffer,” Ahishakiye told AFP.
Francine Uwamariya, a genocide survivor who said she had lost her entire family in the massacre, argued that the trial should have gone ahead even without Kabuga.
“He was the planner and financier of the genocide. The court appears to be on the side of the killer when it should be neutral,” Uwamariya is quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading justice for nearly three decades. He was charged with inciting the mass killings through his broadcaster, Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM).
He has been on trial since late 2020. However, in March, The Hague Court agreed to pause his trial while his health was evaluated.
In June, the war crimes court proposed setting up an alternative procedure for Kabuga’s prosecution that would have allowed evidence to be heard without the possibility of a conviction after determining that he was unwell.
On Monday, the appeal court judges rejected the proposal, with IRMCT chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz calling for the ruling to be “respected, even if the outcome is dissatisfying.”
Ahishakiye responded by saying the group was considering cutting ties with the criminal court due to the outcome of Kabuga’s case.