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ICC drops charges against rebel leader

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REUTERS

Callixte Mbarushimana is seen at the opening of the confirmation of charges hearings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Mbarushimana, described as a senior leader of Rwanda rebel group FDLR, has been handed a life sentence.

The International Criminal Court on Wednesday backed a decision to drop war crimes charges against Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana.

“The appeal is rejected,” said Judge Erkki Kourula, following an appeal by prosecutors against the tribunal's decision to drop charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The offences were allegedly committed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009, but the ICC in December last year ruled that the prosecution's evidence was too weak to merit a trial.

Mbarushimana, 48, was released from custody the same month, allowing him to return to his family in France where he is under investigation for his alleged role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The former UN computer technician's arrest arose from a probe into alleged war crimes referred to the ICC in The Hague by the Kinshasa government in June 2004.

French authorities arrested Mbarushimana, who denied all the charges, on an ICC warrant in October 2010 in Paris, where he had been living as a political refugee since 2002.

The government in Kigali has said that Mbarushimana should also be tried for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide of about 800 000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Lawyers had tried in vain to block Mbarushimana's transfer to the ICC claiming it would result in him being sent back to Rwanda, where they argued he would not get a fair trial.

Prosecutors said Mbarushimana was suspected of involvement in a series of attacks by Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) fighters against civilians in the eastern DR Congo.

They accused him of having “personally and intentionally contributed” to plotting “widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population in order to create a humanitarian catastrophe”.

Mbarushimana was alleged to have been executive secretary of the FDLR.

Based in the east of the DR Congo, the FDLR is considered a major source of insecurity in the region. Some of its members are also accused of having participated in the Rwandan genocide. – Sapa-AFP


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