Felicien Kabuga, an alleged financier of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, is fit to stand trial, a U.N. tribunal ruled Monday, saying it must begin "as soon as possible" in The Hague.
"The Defence has not established that Kabuga is presently unfit for trial," the ruling said, after lawyers had sought to halt proceedings on health grounds.
Kabuga was arrested on May 16, 2020, in a Paris suburb after 25 years on the run.
He is accused of helping create the Interahamwe Hutu militia, the main armed group of the 1994 genocide that claimed more than 800,000 lives, according to the United Nations.
Kabuga, 87, is currently in detention in The Hague awaiting trial before the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which is completing the work of the disbanded International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Various experts were involved in preparing the case for the tribunal, which "unequivocally demonstrates that Kabuga is in a vulnerable and fragile state and requires intensive medical care and monitoring," the MICT said.
The opinions of independent forensic experts differed on Kabuga's fitness to stand trial, but they agreed that his condition could render him unfit in the future, the tribunal said.
He needs "24-hour nursing care" and as such currently resides in a prison hospital, it added.
The judges conceded that the issue of Kabuga's fitness to stand trial had not been "easy to determine" and recommended that his condition be monitored continuously.
The MICT said it was in the interests of justice for the trial to begin as soon as possible and to proceed in the tribunal's branch in The Hague — rather than its Arusha chamber.
Kabuga, a former president of the Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines, which broadcast calls for the killing of Tutsis, is accused by the MICT of genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.