Prosecutors said on Friday that two senior Rwandan Hutu rebel leaders have been indicted for allegedly masterminding from Germany atrocities in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ignace Murwanashyaka (47) ringleader of the “terrorist” Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and his deputy Straton Musoni (49) are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, federal prosecutors said.
Before their arrest in Germany in November 2009, the two “directed FDLR actions, strategy and tactics” together with a third man in France now facing extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a statement said.
“The accused are responsible for 26 crimes against humanity and 39 war crimes committed by militias under their command between January 2008 and November 17, 2009 (the day of their arrest).
“More than 200 people were killed, large numbers of women were raped, civilians were used as human shields against attacks by military opponents and children were recruited into the FDLR militia,” prosecutors said.
The FDLR was created by the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, who fled to neighbouring DRC after President Paul Kagame took power. They are seen as a major source of instability in Africa’s resource-rich Great Lakes region.
The indictments were filed at a court in Stuttgart, southwest Germany, on December 8. It was unclear when any trial would take place. Murwanashyaka was among 15 people whose assets were frozen by the United Nations Security Council in 2005.
‘No way involved’
Murwanashyaka, FDLR head since 2001, studied in Bonn in western Germany and had been afforded asylum in Germany, settling in Mannheim. Musoni, deputy since 2004, had lived further south in the small town of Neuffen.
At the time of their arrest, the rebel group said that the two were “in no way involved in the atrocities committed against civilians in eastern DRC,” calling their detention “unfair and unjustified”.
On November 3, a French court agreed to send their alleged France-based accomplice, Callixte Mbarushimana, to the ICC in The Hague.
Mbarushimana denies the charges, and his lawyers had said they planned to appeal, saying the ICC warrant could be a first step towards sending him back to Rwanda, where they argue he would not get a fair trial.
The Paris appeals court ruled in favour of a warrant issued by the ICC on condition that “under no circumstances” would Mbarushimana be taken back by any means to his home country, however. He remains in custody in France.
Kagame has criticised Western countries in the past for not doing enough to bring FDLR leaders to justice, and the UN mission in DRC, known as MONUSCO, has called on other countries to follow the example set by France and Germany.
International arrest warrants could be dropped
A French judge has meanwhile placed Rwanda’s defence minister and five other Kagame aides under investigation in a probe into an attack seen as sparking the genocide, legal sources said on Thursday.
Placing the six under investigation means that international arrest warrants issued for them — which led to Rwanda cutting off diplomatic relations with France in 2006 — can be dropped.
An estimated 800 000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed in the Rwandan genocide.
On January 18, 2011 Onesphore Rwabukombe, a former mayor, is due to go on trial in Frankfurt charged with ordering and organising during the genocide the murder of at least 3 730 Tutsis who had sought refuge in church buildings. — Sapa-AFP