/ 1 December 2009

Lawyers protest Nkunda’s ‘illegal’ detention in Rwanda

Lawyers for Laurent Nkunda, a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have filed a complaint about his ”illegal detention” in Rwanda, his family announced on Tuesday.

The lawyers have taken the case to Rwanda’s Supreme Court after the High Military Court refused to consider freeing Nkunda, whose rebels took vast swathes of eastern DRC before finally being defeated last year.

”The Supreme Court (…) should rule on the illegality” of his detention at Gisenyi, then in the Rwandan capital Kigali, the statement said. Nkunda has been held since his arrest in Gisenyi, a Rwandan border town, on January 22.

Nkunda led a mainly Congolese Tutsi force called the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), which purported to protect minority Tutsis in the eastern Kivu provinces from attacks by other ethnic groups.

His arrest by the Rwandan army was an unexpected feature of a joint military campaign early this year against Rwandan Hutu rebels in the Kivu provinces, who include suspects in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide of about 800 000 people, mostly Tutsis.

According to his Canadian lawyer Stephane Bourgon, Nkunda ”has the right to know why he was arrested, why he is being detained and how long this illegal imprisonment will go on, given that there is no valid arrest warrant issued against him and no charges have been made against him,” the statement said.

In October 2008, Nkunda’s forces routed Congolese troops in Nord-Kivu province, but the Rwandans intervened on January 20 and took part in a joint offensive that targetted both the CNDP and the Rwandan rebels.

Since that operation, many of Nkunda’s former fighters have gone over to the Kinshasa government, but the Rwandan rebels are still a serious threat to the peace, stability and security of eastern DRC. — AFP