Once one of Rwanda's richest men, prosecutors say Felicien Kabuga helped set up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis along with funding militia groups in 1994.

Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century.
Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century. (AA)

Alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga, one of the last key suspects in the 1994 ethnic slaughter that devastated the small central African nation, is set to go on trial in The Hague.

Kabuga's trial will open at 0800GMT on Thursday before a UN tribunal, where he has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the massacres 28 years ago of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Prosecutors and the defence are expected to make their opening statements on Thursday and Friday, with evidence in the case to start the following Wednesday.

Kabuga's lawyers entered a not guilty plea to the charges at a first appearance in 2020.

Once one of Rwanda's richest men, prosecutors say Kabuga allegedly helped set up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to "kill Tutsi cockroaches" and funded militia groups in 1994.

More than 50 witnesses are expected to appear for the prosecution, which said they needed about 40 hours to wrap up their case.

READ MORE: Key suspect in Rwandan Genocide 'still residing' in France

Calls for a swift trial

An ally of Rwanda's then-ruling party, Kabuga allegedly helped create the Interahamwe Hutu militia group and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), whose broadcasts incited people to murder.

The radio station also identified the hiding places of Tutsis where they were later killed, prosecutors said in the indictment.

Kabuga is also accused of "distributing machetes" to genocidal groups and ordering them to kill Tutsis.

Now in his mid-80s, Kabuga was arrested in Paris, France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century, using a succession of false passports.

He was then transferred to the UN's International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in The Hague, set up to complete the work of the now defunct Rwanda war crimes tribunal.

Said to be in fragile health, Kabuga appeared before the judges in a wheelchair in August and it was not known whether he'll be in court on Thursday as judges are permitting him to attend the hearings via a video link.

Kabuga was originally scheduled to appear in court in Arusha, where the other arm of the IRMCT (also referred at as the MICT) resides, but judges had ruled he would remain in The Hague "until otherwise decided."

In June, the judges denied a defence objection, ruling Kabuga was indeed fit to stand trial.

Victims of the genocide have called for a swift trial for Kabuga saying "if he dies before facing justice, he would have died under the presumption of innocence."

READ MORE: Why remembering the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda matters

Source: AFP