34ºF

French high court OKs extradition of Rwanda genocide suspect

FILE - In this Friday, April 4, 2014 file photo, the skulls and bones of some of those who were slaughtered as they sought refuge inside the church are laid out as a memorial to the thousands who were killed in and around the Catholic church during the 1994 genocide in Ntarama, Rwanda. France's highest court on Wednesday Sept.30, 2020 rejected Rwandan genocide suspect Flicien Kabuga's appeal of a decision to extradite him to an international court in The Hague. Kabuga, one of the most-wanted fugitives in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, was arrested outside Paris in May after 25 years on the run. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
FILE - In this Friday, April 4, 2014 file photo, the skulls and bones of some of those who were slaughtered as they sought refuge inside the church are laid out as a memorial to the thousands who were killed in and around the Catholic church during the 1994 genocide in Ntarama, Rwanda. France's highest court on Wednesday Sept.30, 2020 rejected Rwandan genocide suspect Flicien Kabuga's appeal of a decision to extradite him to an international court in The Hague. Kabuga, one of the most-wanted fugitives in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, was arrested outside Paris in May after 25 years on the run. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PARIS – France’s highest court on Wednesday gave the green light for Rwandan genocide suspect Félicien Kabuga to be extradited to a special international court in Tanzania, rejecting his appeal.

Kabuga, one of the most wanted fugitives in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, was arrested outside Paris in May after 25 years on the run. He is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for equipping militias that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them.

Kabuga has denied involvement in the massacre.

In June, a French appeals court ordered Kabuga, 87, to be turned over to the U.N.’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which had sought his arrest since 2013.

Laurent Bayon, one of Kabuga’s lawyers, told The Associated Press that the court decision all but assures that Kabuga will be transferred to Arusha, Tanzania, to face the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which works with the Mechanism.

Rwandan prosecutors say financial documents found in the capital, Kigali, after the genocide indicated that Kabuga, then a wealthy businessman, used dozens of his companies to import vast quantities of machetes that were used to slaughter people.

He also was accused of establishing the station Radio Television Mille Collines that broadcast vicious propaganda against the ethnic Tutsi minority, as well as training and equipping a militia that led the killing spree.

Kabuga was close to former President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death when his plane was shot down over Kigali sparked the 100-day genocide. Kabuga’s daughter married Habyarimana’s son.

The Mechanism's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, said Tuesday ahead of the court decision that a team from the Mechanism is in Kigali to assess evidence against Kabuga, contact witnesses and seek out new evidence.

“The objective is to update and strengthen the existing case,” Brammertz said. “We continue the search for the remaining fugitives," he said, adding that the main challenge is "lack of cooperation from countries where we believe the fugitives are hiding, or traveling to.”

Commenting earlier this month for the first time since Kabuga’s arrest, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on national television it was possible that those who sheltered him didn’t want the death of the aging fugitive on their hands.

France’s Court of Cassation rejected arguments to keep Kabuga in France, including health concerns due to his age.

The court decision was issued in a statement.

___

Ignatius Ssuuna in Kigali, Rwanda, and Masha Macpherson in Paris contributed.