Ambassador Clint Williamson. Ambassador Williamson is the Senior Director of the International Rule of Law and Security Program at the McCain Institute, and a Distinguished Professor of Practice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, where he teaches International Criminal Justice. Amb. Williamson is the former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.
Early this morning, outside Paris, the man who was believed to be a principal financier and organizer of the Rwandan genocide was arrested by French authorities. Felicien Kabuga had been indicted by the the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1997 for genocide and crimes against humanity. For 23 years he had evaded capture and lived as a fugitive in various countries as the international community made a concerted effort to apprehend him and to bring him to justice. His arrest today marks a huge victory for those who have fought for accountability in Rwanda and for the survivors of the genocide who have sought justice, over so many years, for the deaths of their loved ones.
In spring 1994, over a 100-day period, militia groups and other extremist elements in the majority Hutu ethnic group massacred approximately 800,000 people from the Tutsi minority as well as moderate Hutus. Felicien Kabuga, a wealthy Hutu businessman, used his fortune to fund extremist militia groups, to purchase weapons, and to set up Radio Mille Collines. This radio station spewed hate speech in the lead-up to the genocide, urging Hutus to exterminate the “cockroach” Tutsis, and as the killings played out even went so far as to direct its listeners to kill specific Tutsis and Hutu political opponents, identifying where they could be located. Kabuga’s role in laying the groundwork for the genocide and in facilitating its implementation cannot be overstated.
For this reason, the arrest of Kabuga was an extremely high priority during my tenure as US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, and during those of my successors. On a number of trips to East Africa, I pressed senior officials in Kenya and other countries to do more to locate Kabuga. I worked closely with our European allies and together we marshaled law enforcement and intelligence resources in an effort to find and apprehend him. The US Government put him among the most wanted fugitives in our Rewards for Justice program, offering $5 million for information leading to his arrest. Despite all of these efforts, Kabuga was able to use his considerable assets to remain hidden, eventually ending up in a Paris suburb living under a false identity. His arrest today, though, shows that those who orchestrate and perpetrate such heinous crimes cannot escape with impunity forever. It is a good day for those who care about international justice.