Trial of elderly Rwanda genocide suspect opens at UN court
THE HAGUE (AP):
A frail 87-year-old Rwandan accused of encouraging and bankrolling the country’s 1994 genocide boycotted the opening of his trial at a United Nations tribunal on Thursday, nearly three decades after the 100-day massacre left 800,000 dead.
Félicien Kabuga is one of the last fugitives charged over the genocide to face justice. Even without him in court, the start of his trial marks a key day of reckoning for Rwandans who survived the killings or whose families were murdered.
Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy said the proceedings could start without Kabuga, who did not attend amid a dispute over his legal representation.
The court’s chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, said Kabuga’s no-show was “a strategic decision”. Brammertz said that throughout preparations for trial, “he had a lawyer, very competent lawyer representing him. So as far as we are concerned, the proceedings are absolutely guaranteed”.
The mass killing of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority was triggered on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down and crashed in the capital, Kigali, killing the leader who, like the majority of Rwandans, was an ethnic Hutu. Kabuga’s daughter married Habyarimana’s son.
The Tutsi minority was blamed for downing the plane. Bands of Hutu extremists began slaughtering Tutsis and their perceived supporters, with help from the army, police, and militias.