ICC orders release of Rwandan rebel leader after dismissing charges

Headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Photo: Vincent van Zeijst

16 December 2011 – Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today ordered the release of a Rwandan rebel leader after dismissing war crimes charges related to deadly fighting in the far east of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2009.

Callixte Mbarushimana, the head of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (known by their French acronym, FDLR) will be released from the custody of the court, which is based in The Hague, after the decision by one of its pre-trial chambers.

By a two-one majority, the judges found there was insufficient evidence “to establish substantial grounds to believe” that Mr. Mbarushimana could be held criminally responsible for the eight counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity which he had been facing.

Mr. Mbarushimana 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, and the judges said they were substantial grounds to believe FDLR soldiers had committed several war crimes in various villages during that period.

But the judges said 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 chamber further found that Mr. Mbarushimana did not provide any contribution to the commission of the alleged crimes.

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