The process to have Rwandan genocide suspect Fulgence Kayishema tried by a UN court was delayed on Wednesday, after a judge in South Africa postponed a transfer hearing.
Kayishema, who allegedly took part in one of the 1994 genocide's bloodiest episodes, was detained in May on a wine farm outside Cape Town after more than 20 years on the run.
In June, he applied for asylum in South Africa in a bid to stall a possible request for him to stand trial abroad. The United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals eventually requested that he be handed over to its branch in Tanzania.
But the legal procedure, which is different from a typical extradition, was the cause of some confusion, with prosecutors on Wednesday failing to file an application to start the transfer process.
"This is not a criminal case nor a civil case. So, we are treading new terrain," said Eric Ntabazalila, a spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority.
“Our understanding was that the matter was postponed to today so that he'll have his own legal representative coming on board and then we'd plan a way forward.”
Kayishema, who did not appear in court, is accused of overseeing the slaughter of more than 2,000 men, women, and children at the height of the 1994 genocide.
Around 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered by Hutu extremists in over 100 days of sectarian violence.
Friends of the 62-year-old former police chief believe he is innocent.
"We have proof that is a mistaken identity. The Kayishema they have here, Fulgence, is not the Kayishema who was wanted by the justice,” said family friend, Joseph Habinshuti outside the court.
The judge did not immediately set a new date for the next hearing.
Kayishema is separately facing 54 fraud and immigration-related charges in South Africa.