A picture taken in December 1960, shows soldiers guarding Patrice Lumumba (R), Prime Minister of then Congo-Kinshasa, and Joseph Okito (L), vice-president of the Senate, upon their arrest in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa).

Brussels -

An appeals court in Brussels ruled on Wednesday that Belgian prosecutors can open an investigation into the 1961 murder of the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba.

The appeals court also determined that the murder could have been a war crime. The Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence from Belgium in 1960.

The case was filed in 2010 by one of Lumumba's sons against around a dozen Belgians whom he alleged could have been involved in his father's death. Of them, eight are still alive. Until now it was unclear whether a Belgium court could hear the case. The appeals court has now cleared the way for that.

At the time of Lumumba's death western allies accused him of wanting to affiliate his country with the Soviet Union. He was deposed just weeks after the country gained independence.

The Belgian parliament had previously found that Lumumba was flown to the southern province of Katanga, where he was tortured before being shot by soldiers carrying out the commands of Belgian officers. - Sapa-dpa