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U.N. Tribunal Finds Defendant in Rwanda Genocide Unfit to Stand Trial

THE HAGUE — United Nations judges have declared a defendant in the Rwandan genocide unfit to continue standing trial because he has dementia but said that they would establish a procedure to hear evidence without the possibility of convicting him.

The majority decision published on Wednesday by judges at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals means no guilty verdict can be reached in the trial of the defendant, Félicien Kabuga, one of the last fugitives charged in connection with the 1994 genocide.

Mr. Kabuga is accused of encouraging and bankrolling the mass killing of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda. His trial began last year, nearly three decades after the massacre that left 800,000 dead. He is in custody at a United Nations detention unit in The Hague.

Medical experts who have closely monitored his health said that the “consequences of dementia deprive Mr. Kabuga of the capabilities necessary for meaningful participation in a trial” and that “he will not recover these capacities because his condition is characterized by progressive and irreversible decline.”

In a written decision, the judges said that they would set up “an alternative finding procedure that resembles a trial as closely as possible, but without the possibility of a conviction.”

Mr. Kabuga has been charged with genocide, incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution, extermination and murder. He pleaded not guilty. A conviction could have brought a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

At the opening of Mr. Kabuga’s trial in September, a prosecution lawyer, Rashid Rashid, described the defendant as an enthusiastic supporter of the slaughter of the Tutsis and said that Mr. Kabuga had armed, trained and encouraged murderous Hutu militias known as Interahamwe.

The genocide started 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. Mr. Kabuga’s daughter had married Mr. 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 force, and militias.

After years as a fugitive from international justice, Mr. Kabuga, who was the subject of a $5 million bounty, was arrested near Paris in May 2020. He was transferred to The Hague to stand trial at the residual mechanism, a court that deals with remaining cases from United Nations tribunals for Rwanda and the Balkan wars, which are now closed.

The decision in Mr. Kabuga’s case came about two weeks after one of the most wanted suspects in the Rwandan genocide, Fulgence Kayishema, who is accused of having orchestrated the killing of some 2,000 people at a church nearly three decades ago, was arrested in South Africa after 22 years on the run.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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