Félicien Kabuga, the octogenarian alleged financier of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, should be urgently released after a court declared him unfit to stand trial in The Hague, UN appeals judges ruled on Monday.
A special war crimes tribunal committed "an error of law" in June when it decided that Félicien Kabuga should be tried via a simplified procedure despite his state of health, the judges said, ordering the court to "rapidly examine the problem of Mr. Kabuga's pre-trial detention".
The former businessman, who is 88 according to the authorities but claims to be 90, is accused of having founded and financed a radio station that called for hatred and motivated the killers who massacred some 800,000 people in 1994.
The judges of the Court of Appeal "decided to refer the case back to the Trial Chamber with a request that it declare an indefinite stay of proceedings due to Mr. Kabuga's unfitness to stand trial".
They admitted that this decision "must be disappointing" for the victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide, who "have waited a long time for justice to be done", the ruling added.
But "justice can only be served by organizing fair trials conducted with full respect for the rights of the accused".
The judges pointed out that, in June, medical experts had concluded that Mr. Kabuga was suffering from "severe dementia".
Arrested in Paris in 2020, after two decades on the run, the accused, who uses a wheelchair, went on trial in September and pleaded not guilty.
According to the UN, the Rwandan genocide claimed more than 800,000 lives, most of them Tutsis exterminated between April and July 1994.