Rwandan ‘genocide financier’ pleads not guilty at UN court

Wanted poster for Felicien Kabuga, accused of genocide. (Photo by MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) Credit: MCT/Tribune News Service/Getty Images

The alleged financier of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Felicien Kabuga, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday as he made his first appearance at a UN court after a quarter of a century on the run.

Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, Kabuga allegedly helped set up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to “kill the Tutsi cockroaches” and funded militia groups.

Now in his 80s, he was arrested in France in May and transferred to the court in The Hague in October to face charges of a key role in the killing of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The frail Kabuga sat in a wheelchair behind a glass screen in the courtroom, wearing a coronavirus mask. A court official helped him adjust his headphones.

His defence lawyer Emmanuel Altit said Kabuga was “very tired” and “preferred not to speak”, when asked by judge Iain Bonomy if the former businessman wanted to enter a plea.

“Given the situation, I would be grateful if you could consider this lack of response as a plea of not guilty on all the counts, under the rules and procedures,” Altit told the court.

Kabuga, who until his arrest near Paris was one of the world’s most wanted men, had already denied the charges in his court appearances in France.

The Rwandan faces seven counts including genocide, incitement to genocide, extermination and persecution.

The UN court will later decide if he will be transferred to its branch in Tanzania for trial.