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Germany: Verdict Expected in Democratic Republic of Congo Case

A local court in Stuttgart, Germany, will issue its verdict on September 28, 2015, in the case of two leaders of a Rwandan rebel group active in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in eastern Congo in 2009 and 2010, and of belonging to a terrorist group.

Murwanashyaka and Musoni were the president and vice-president of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwandan (Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda, FDLR), a predominantly Rwandan Hutu rebel group based in eastern Congo, some of whose leaders participated in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Both men were living in Germany in November 2009 when they were arrested. If convicted, they face up to life in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity and up to 10 years for belonging to a terrorist group.

“This is the first time FDLR leaders face justice for the horrific atrocities committed by their fighters against Congolese civilians,” said Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Third countries, such as Germany, play a crucial role in helping to end impunity for grave crimes when justice isn’t possible in the country where the crimes occurred.”

The trial, which began in May 2011, was the first in Germany under the country’s Code of Crimes Against International Law, adopted in June 2002. The code integrates the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into German law and allows German courts to investigate and prosecute grave international crimes irrespective of where they are committed.

Human Rights Watch has extensively documented FDLR abuses, which continue to this day. Anneke Van Woudenberg, then the senior researcher on Congo at Human Rights Watch, testified at the trial.

In 2012, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for the military leader of the FDLR, Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura, believed to be in eastern Congo, but he continues to evade justice. Congolese authorities, with the help of United Nations peacekeepers, should make it an urgent priority to arrest Mudacumura and surrender him to the court, Human Rights Watch said.

A Human Rights Watch staff member will be present in the courtroom for the verdict.

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