Eric Emeraux, head of the Gendarmerie's Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocides and War Crimes, poses in Paris
Eric Emeraux, head of the Gendarmerie's Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocides and War Crimes (OCLCH), diplays documents with a wanted poster depicting a photograph of Felicien Kabuga during an interview with Reuters at his office, about the arrest of Rwandan genocide fugitive suspect Felicien Kabuga, in Paris, France, May 19, 2020. Reuters

Judges at a U.N. war crimes court ruled that elderly Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga is unfit to stand trial but said slimmed-down legal proceedings in his case can continue, in a decision published on Wednesday.

The former businessman and radio station owner was one of the last suspects sought by the tribunal prosecuting crimes committed in the 1994 genocide, when ruling Hutu majority extremists killed more than 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates in 100 days.

Kabuga is in his late 80s, though his precise date of birth is disputed. He was arrested in France in 2020 after more than 20 years on the run.

"The trial chamber finds Mr. Kabuga is no longer capable of meaningful participation in his trial," a decision published on the Hague court's website said.

The decision came after doctors found Kabuga suffered from dementia.

Instead of halting the trial, the judges said they would set up an "alternative finding procedure that resembles a trial as closely as possible, but without the possibility of a conviction".

Kabuga's lawyer said he was "very satisfied" with the chamber's decision. "This is something that we have been asking for a long time," Emmanuel Altit said.

It was not immediately clear what form the alternative proceedings will take but it will be similar to a "trial of the facts" used in U.K. courts. Kabuga is expected to remain in the tribunal's detention centre during the proceedings.

Prosecutors had argued staying the trial or halting it altogether would be unfair to the victims and would not take into account that it was Kabuga's own decision to go on the run for 20 years which is largely responsible for the current situation.

They said a type of "trial of the facts" would shed a new light on Kabuga's role in the genocide and how the radio station was run and sources of support for Hutu militias.

Kabuga's lawyer told Reuters the procedure could cause a lot of difficulties for him as Kabuga is unable to talk to his counsel or help prepare a defence.

"It is simple: when a person is deemed unfit for trial, then the court case should end and that person should go home," he said.

Kabuga has denied the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors say Kabuga promoted hate speech through his broadcaster, Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM), and armed ethnic Hutu militias.

The former coffee and tea tycoon Kabuga has been on trial at The Hague branch of the United Nations mechanism that took over operations of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since September last year.