Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands with jurisdiction over Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons commented on the decision of the Trial Chamber of the UN-International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals which found Félicien Kabuga “unfit to participate meaningfully in his trial”.
Following the court’s decision, Nduhungirehe said “there seems to be a misunderstanding about the actual decision taken by the court.”
He explains, in this regard, “international medias are suggesting or claiming that the trial was terminated, which is a grossly misleading statement.”
He added that the IRMCT decision follows a report of the Joint Monitoring Report of 3rd March 2023, which contains findings of a panel of three independent medical experts, who concluded unanimously that “Mr. Kabuga’s physical health and mental capacities had deteriorated significantly since their previous assessments, that he now meets the clinical criteria for dementia, and that he cannot meaningfully participate in his trial regardless of trial modalities or accommodations”.
However, the court didn’t terminate the proceedings, as requested by the defense.
Nduhungirehe continues his post on Twitter adding that “The judges argued that “terminating proceedings against Mr. Kabuga based on his unfitness would be inappropriate because of the importance of addressing the crimes against humanity and genocide charges against him to the victims and survivors of those crimes, and to the international community as a whole”.
The court also ruled out the option of staying proceedings indefinitely, explaining that “the accused is very unlikely to regain fitness” and that the suspension of the trial “is not the best way to effectuate the goals of the Mechanism, including combating impunity and contributing to the restoration and maintenance of peace in Rwanda”.
The court then decided that it will proceed with an “alternative finding procedure”, used in some Commonwealth jurisdictions.
He said “This is a “trial of the facts”, a procedure that resembles a trial as closely as possible, but without the possibility of conviction.”
In other words, the prosecutor will continue presenting the facts, the evidence and the witnesses, Kabuga will remain in prison and his presence in the courtroom will no longer be necessary.
However, Kabuga and his defense could provide arguments and evidence on the facts, if they so wish.
The court will then take a decision based on the facts, but without the possibility of pronouncing any conviction against Félicien Kabuga, as he was found unfit to stand trial.