ICC Probe For Nkunda, DRC Militia Leader
The options under consideration include â€œNkunda-allied forces,â€? the DRCâ€™s regular army, and the rebels comprising Hutus that fled Rwanda when the Rwanda Patriotic Front won power, following the genocide there.
[Africa News Update: Updated December 20, 2007]
Forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda, the militia leader and former general in Congo's army at the center of conflict in the Kivu regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo face International Criminal Court investigation on war crimes charges, The Black Star News has learned.
Additionally, the DRC’s regular army, known as the Forces Armées de la Republic Democratic du Congo (FARDC), and a rebel group, Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), comprising primarily Hutus that fled Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, also face similar investigation, the ICC said, today. “Supporters” and "backers" of the local militias that have wreaked havoc in DRC’s Kivu regions, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced, also face similar investigation, the Court said.
The ICC investigations will target “crimes in the Kivus such as acts of sexual violence of shocking brutality, forced displacements, or killings as allegedly committed by the various armed forces in presence in the two provinces, including by regular FARDC soldiers, by the FDLR or by Nkunda-allied forces” the Court said.
A legal advisor at the DRC’s permanent mission to the United Nations today said the DRC welcomes the ICC’s announcement and that General Nkunda should be the first to be targeted for investigation.
In two highly visible previous DRC cases, two suspects investigated by the Court on war crimes charges have already been surrendered to the ICC and face trials in the Hague, where the Court is based.
“We will open an investigation into a third case in the DRC in 2008,” the ICC’s office of the prosecutor, confirmed to The Black Star News, today. “We are in the process of selecting the case in accordance with our judicial standards.”
“We are also considering as part of this selection process other potential cases, including in relation to those backers and supporters of the local armed militia. This selection is ongoing,” the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s office told The Black Star. “In any event, this third investigation will not be the last investigation in the DRC and we will continue our efforts to prosecute those whom we believe bear the greatest responsibility for the gravest crimes committed in this situation.”
Fighting has recently flared up again in the Congo’s Kivu regions resulting in the displacement of tens of thousands, creating a humanitarian nightmare.
Mukongo Ngay, the legal advisor in the DRC's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in a phone interview said in terms of priority, Nkunda should be the first to be investigated because “he’s causing problems.”
“He is the one who is troubling the region now,” Ngay said. Moreover, he added, in terms of alleged crimes by Congo’s army, the “military tribunal is trying people from the regular army that are committing rape and violence against women. We are already doing that.”
Ngay said Congo supports the ICC investigation of alleged crimes by the Hutu rebels. “Those are people who came from Rwanda and are conducting mass killings in Eastern Congo. We are asking them to go back to their country but they do not want.”
The ICC’s reference to “backers and supporters of the local armed militia,” was directed at Rwanda and other countries, Ngay said. “We know that Rwanda is supporting Nkunda,” he said.
An official at Rwanda’s embassy in Washington, D.C., denied that Rwanda provides any support to General Nkunda. He said Nkunda’s backing comes from Congolese Tutsis in the region because he protects them from “negative” elements, including the FDLR that comprises elements that participated in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
When asked whether the ICC would also investigate foreign backers and supporters of the DRC militias, prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo’s office responded: “The Prosecutor analyzes all information available regarding allegations on crimes under the ICC jurisdiction. In the course of this analysis, we consider the entire range of criminality in the DRC and focus on the individuals bearing the greatest responsibility for the gravest crimes. We work on the basis of the evidence we have and not on any other basis. The crimes committed on the DRC territory by foreign nationals, wherever they are from, fall under the ICC jurisdiction and any such allegations are part of the analysis process.”
In the two earlier DRC cases, the ICC, which has occasionally been criticized for the slow pace of its work, issued an arrest warrant against militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who was surrendered to the Hague-based court on March 17, 2006. A leader of a militia in Ituri, the ICC said, he was “criminally responsible for a policy of enlisting and con scri pting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities.” His trial starts March 31, 2008.
In a second DRC case this past June, Germain Katanga, leader of another armed group, the Forces de résistance patriotique en Ituri, was surrendered by the DRC authorities on October 18, 2007. The ICC said evidence collected in its investigation “shows that Germain Katanga launched and led a brutal attack against the village of Bogoro, using child soldiers, killing hundreds of civilians and committing inhumane acts against others, forcing women into sexual slavery.”
The Kinshasa government of Joseph Kabila says attempts to reintegrate Nkunda’s forces into the national army have failed because Nkunda refuses to disarm; Nkunda himself in interviews with other media outlets said Kinshasa has failed to disarm the Hutu militias that could target Congolese Tutsis.
The ICC investigates individuals, including leaders of armed groups accused of war crimes.
Despite the ouster of long time dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, the Congo has not enjoyed peace or stability. Widespread massacres, arising from intervention of neighboring countries seeking to steal Congo's riches, have resulted in deaths estimated to range anywhere from four to seven million.
In 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Uganda, which had occupied Eastern Congo, liable for massacres, rapes, tortures and wide spread looting of resources. Congo has been waiting for its $10 billion claim for compensation. "Not a dime has been paid," a DRC official said.
The ICC is also investigating individuals with Uganda-supported militias on war crimes committed during Uganda's occupation. "Speaking Truth To Empower."
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The ICC is also investigating individuals with Uganda-supported militias on war crimes committed during Uganda's occupation.
"Speaking Truth To Empower."