An 87-year-old Rwandan accused of financing genocide in the country in 1994 refused to attend the opening day of his trial on Thursday at the United Nations tribunal. Félicien Kabuga boycotted his first trial day despite nearly three decades having passed since the massacre that left 800,000 dead.

Kabuga is one of the last fugitives to be brought to justice as he faces charges over the 100-day genocide. Despite his absence in court, the trial marks a reckoning for all those who perished and survived the brutal killings. Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy stated the proceeding will carry on even without Kabuga who was missing due to a reported dispute over his legal representation, ABC News reported.

Serge Brammertz, the court’s chief prosecutor noted that Kabuga’s no-show is perceived as a “strategic” decision on the defendant’s side. Brammertz was quick to point out that Kabuga had a very competent lawyer to represent him and that the proceedings are “absolutely guaranteed.” Prosecution has listed around 50 witnesses to testify which also includes a number of individuals currently serving prison sentences in Rwanda.

According to court documents, Kabuga’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea during his first appearance in court earlier in 2022. They repeatedly attempted to delay the trial on health grounds but have failed to do so. In August 2022, Kabuga appeared in court in a wheelchair and since then, judges have made it clear that he can still attend the trial via video link and that the proceedings will only run for just two hours per day.

During day one of the trial, prosecutor Rashid Rashid, described the defendant as an enthusiastic supporter of murderous militias who are armed, trained and encouraged to slaughter. Hutu militias also called Interahamwe, are said to be behind the mass killing of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority on April 6, 1994, all of whom hunted down men, women and children.

Kabuga is said to be a wealthy businessman with close ties to the Hutu political elite. He is accused of providing weapons such as machetes to carry out the slaughter. With a $5 million bounty on his head, Kabuga was captured somewhere near Paris in May 2020. He is charged with genocide, incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide as well as extermination and murder. If convicted Kabuga faces life imprisonment.

Felicien Kabuga's lawyer Emmanuel Altit
Felicien Kabuga's lawyer Emmanuel Altit (L) speaks with prosecutor Rupert Elderkin (R) ahead of the trial at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in The Hague. - Alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga played a "substantial" role in the 1994 ethnic slaughter, prosecutors said at the opening of his trial in The Hague on September 29, 2022. - Netherlands OUT Photo by Koen van Weel/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

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