Gasabo High Court, Kigali – On Thursday, June 8, 2023, the Gasabo High Court commenced proceedings for a landmark case brought by the Genocide survivors’ umbrella against Felicien Kabuga, seeking compensation totaling Rwf 50,658,800,000,000 ($50 billion) for the suffering endured during the genocide. Ibuka representing the survivors, alleged that Kabuga was directly involved in the Genocide in 1994, which resulted in the loss of numerous lives and the destruction of properties belonging to the Tutsi community.
During the hearing, Ibuka was represented by Bayingana Janvier. However, Kabuga failed to attend the trial and did not have legal representation. The plaintiffs, through their lawyer, argued that Kabuga’s actions played a significant role in the killings and the looting of properties that belonged to the victims and their families.
The complaint document, obtained by the Voice of America, revealed that Ibuka represented survivors from various locations, including Bisesero, Mugina, Kimironko, Muhima, Musave, Nyamirambo, Mudende, as well as the “Commune Rouge” in Rubavu and Vunga. Ibuka called upon the Gasabo High Court to hold Kabuga accountable and order him to pay compensation for the immense suffering caused by his alleged involvement in the genocide.
Despite the recent decision by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), which confirmed that Kabuga, accused of genocide crimes, was unfit to stand trial, Ibuka remains resolute in their pursuit of justice. The IRMCT had established a special system to juge Kabuga, but this development did not deter the survivors from seeking legal action against him.
The trial, however, faced a setback as Kabuga’s side did not appear in court. Bayingana informed the judge that Ibuka had written to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) to ensure Kabuga was aware of the case. At the time of entering the court, they had not received a response from the concerned authority. Mr. Bayingana requested a new hearing date, emphasizing that the relevant parties were aware of Kabuga’s location and should have informed him about the trial.
Apart from the compensation amount sought, which is equivalent to ten times Rwanda’s annual budget, Ibuka also requested a reward of Rwf 100 million and court fees of Rwf 50 million. The court postponed the case until July 17, 2023.
This historic case, if it proceeds to trial, holds immense significance not only for the survivors seeking compensation but also for the judicial system in Rwanda. It remains to be seen how the Gasabo Intermediate Court in Kigali will handle this complex and high-stakes lawsuit, which has the potential to pave the way for similar legal actions in the future.