Monday, June 4, 2012

ICC Appeals Chamber Affirms Decision to Drop War Crimes Charges Against Rwandan Rebel Leader

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week dismissed the Prosecution's appeal against the decision to drop war crimes charges against a Rwandan rebel leader for his alleged role in deadly fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2009.  The unanimous decision by the Appeals Chamber came more than five months after the Pre-Trial Chamber decided not to confirm the charges against Callixte Mbarushimana and ordered that he be released from custody.   

Mr. Mbarushimana, the head of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (known by their French acronym FDLR), was accused of murder, torture, rape, attacks against civilians, the destruction of property, inhuman treatment and persecution.  FDLR forces fought against DRC Government forces, Rwandan Government forces and UN peacekeepers in North Kivu and South Kivu throughout 2009.

In the decision handed down last December, ICC judges said there were substantial grounds to believe FDLR soldiers had committed several war crimes in various villages during that period.  However, they added that, while acts amounting to war crimes were likely to have been committed on five of the 25 occasions outlined by prosecutors, there was not enough evidence to show that such acts were part of a course of conduct equalling “an attack directed against the civilian population,” as defined under the law for crimes against humanity.  The Appeals Chamber further found that Mr. Mbarushimana did not provide any contribution to the commission of the alleged crimes.   

The ICC Prosecutor's Office said it was evaluating the Appeals Chamber's decision "to see whether it is possible to present a new case against Mr Mbarushimana presenting additional evidence, in accordance with the Judges' ruling.”

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.  In addition to DRC, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor is currently carrying out investigations in six other situations: northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya and Côte d'Ivoire.  

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)

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