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Genocide of the Tutsi: the trial of Félicien Kabuga suspended on his state of mental health


The prosecutor wanted to explore Félicien Kabuga’s brain. To prove that he had this intention which makes the crime of genocide unique: that of wanting to exterminate a group, such as the Tutsi, targeted for the simple fact of their existence.

Since March 8, every centimeter of the brain of the former Rwandan businessman, accused of “genocide”, of “crimes against humanity for extermination”, “persecution” and “murder”, is verbally auscultated. No longer to know his past intentions, but to organize the rest of the trial. In a confidential report submitted on March 3 to the judges of the United Nations Mechanism responsible for conducting the last trials of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), two psychiatrists and a neurologist concluded that Félicien Kabuga is suffering from “ dementia of vascular origin and would not be fit to stand trial. At least 87 years old, the old man also suffers from diabetes and has just gone through the winter with pneumonia.

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Since last week, the experts have been invited to the bar of the Mechanism which sits in The Hague and their hearing is scheduled to continue until March 30. On that day, lawyers and prosecutors will plead before the judges retire to deliberate. At stake: the trial of the man who for twenty-six years was one of the most wanted fugitives from international justice.

If the judges seem to want to bring this trial to an end at all costs, “ it will not be possible to stop or reverse the changes that we have observed in Mr. Kabuga’s brain “, declared the psychiatrist Gillian Mezey, during the hearing of March 23. Does Félicien Kabuga understand the charges brought against him? “ When I asked him what genocide was, he told me: “It is the extermination of people”, explains Professor Mezey. And when I told him that he could, for example, end his life in prison, he said that people [les témoins] are lying and the court will not believe them. »

” Unable “

As often, the accused is not present in court, but he follows the proceedings by videoconference from the prison hospital. The screens arranged in the courtroom crush the perspective, sometimes giving the ironic impression that he wears the laurel wreath which appears on the logo of the Mechanism, displayed behind him. His lawyer, Mr.e Emmanuel Altit, questions: “ Is it possible to have a reasoned discussion today with Mr Kabuga (…) about, for example, a witness or piece of evidence ? » « If you talk about the weather or what he did during the day, it will be possible “replies the psychiatrist.

But for more complex questions? “ I am clear he is unable to do so given his current cognitive abilities. “Since the opening of the trial at the end of September 2022, only six hours a week have been devoted to hearings, due to the health of the octogenarian, and only 24 witnesses have so far been heard.

When we asked him why he had a beard and why he no longer had the watch he was so proud of, he couldn’t tell us. “, also explained last week Professor Henry Kennedy. The following day, Félicien Kabuga appeared on screen in his wheelchair, clean-shaven except for a mustache, and wearing a watch on his wrist.

As soon as he was arrested in May 2020, in Asnières-sur-Seine, Félicien Kabuga refused to be tried. Is the businessman faking the disease to escape the sentence? The question is in everyone’s mind. Everyone remembers the images of Augusto Pinochet getting out of his wheelchair on arriving in Santiago on March 3, 2000, after London refused to extradite him to Spain where he was charged with the crimes of the dictatorship.

Read also: Genocide in Rwanda: Félicien Kabuga fit to stand trial, UN tribunal says

Hoping to evacuate the question, Dov Jacobs, one of Mr. Kabuga’s lawyers, questions Professor Kennedy: “ Do you think a person with dementia could fool so many people for so long? ? “White beard and thin glasses, the psychiatrist, who examined the accused three times during the past year, kicks a little in touch, explaining that, “cLike any psychiatrist, what is important for me is to keep in mind that we can be fooled. In the present case, based on the findings, we can make a diagnosis of dementia “.


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The presiding judge, the Briton Iain Bonomy, is looking for solutions so as not to close this file without a verdict. In England, if an accused is ” unfit to plead “, the judges can organize a “ trial of facts”. The judge would like to be inspired by it. In this case, the accused would not need to be present, only his defense team. But, since his transfer to the Netherlands in October 2020, Félicien Kabuga has been calling for new lawyers.