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Kabuga unable to attend court session in-person

THE accused person of Rwandan 1994 Genocide, Felicien Kabuga is unable to attend in-person the conference of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) that was about to be scheduled.

IRMCT Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy ruled in Arusha on Tuesday that the matter will continue by way of written submission. 

In his order regarding commencement and conduct of the status conference, the judge said that a March 5th, 2021 report from the United Nations Detention Unit at the Hague Branch of the Mechanism (UNDU) Medical Officer advises that Kabuga is unable to attend a status conference in person or via video-teleconference on or before 11th March, this year.

That has been established in light of recent developments related to Kabuga’s health. 

He was arrested in France on May 16th, 2020, and temporarily transferred on October 26th, 2020 to the UNDU for a detailed medical assessment to determine whether and under what circumstances he may be safely transferred to the Arusha Branch of the Mechanism for trial.

Judge Bonomy who forms the panel along with judges Graciela Susana Gatti Santana and Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya, said that pursuant to Rule 55 of the Rules, a judge may issue such orders as may be necessary for the preparation or conduct of trial, an in-person status conference will be convened as soon as it is feasible, safe, and appropriate to do so bearing in mind all relevant circumstances.

He also said that given the Covid-19 threat, the Netherlands Government has extended flight ban, including from countries where two of judges in the panel reside, complicating the matter further. 

The status conference was to be held before the full Trial Chamber on February 3rd, this year and was later postponed to no later than today (March 11, 2021) in light of stringent lockdown measures and travel restrictions to combat the spread of Covid-19 imposed by the Netherlands.

“Considering that, in view of the: (i) the health risks related to in-person gatherings and travel restrictions imposed in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic; (ii) the accused's present inability to participate in a status conference due to his health; (iii) the parties' agreement to participate in a status conference through written procedure; and (iv) the proven ability and efficacy of the court, counsel, and the Registry to exchange views on relevant issues, a status conference in the spirit of Rule 69 of the Rules which will address all the requirements of Rule 69 may take place through written procedure.

“Emphasizing that an in-person status conference will be convened as soon as it is feasible, safe and appropriate to do so bearing in mind all relevant circumstances; considering that the annexes to this Order will facilitate the anticipated written exchanges; reminding the parties to adhere to applicable confidentiality 'orders and protective measures and that any confidential submissions may be advanced in a confidential annex to the written submissions in response to this Order,” ordered Judge Bonomy.

Scheduled dates for submissions in the case that Kabuga faces six counts related to the Genocide are between March 15th and 19th whereby the Prosecution under Prosecutor Serge Brammertz; Counsel for the Accused, Emmanuel Altit and the Registrar Abubacarr Tambadou shall file written submissions.

The Trial Chamber shall, if necessary, file thereafter a written order or decision taking due note of submissions received and issue any orders and decisions that may be necessary; and instruct the parties and the Registrar to review the annexes to the order for the purposes of facilitating the anticipated exchanges.

The Trial Chamber has been closely following reports on Kabuga's health and has issued necessary decisions and orders to advance litigation related to it. Recent developments in Kabuga's condition. 

However, mandate that the parties and the Trial Chamber await further medical submissions before adjudicating the pending litigation as to which independent medical experts should be engaged to assist in evaluating Kabuga's fitness to travel to the Arusha Branch of the Mechanism and his fitness to stand trial.

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Author: DEUS NGOWI, Arusha

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