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War crimes

German court charges Hutu rebel leaders with war crimes

A court in Germany has charged two Rwandans with the killing of over 200 people and issuing orders that led to the rape of dozens of women and the looting of numerous villages.

women in Congo

Large numbers of Congolese women were raped by Hutu militia

German prosecutors said Friday that two senior Rwandan Hutu rebel leaders have been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and membership in a foreign terrorist association.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and his deputy Straton Musoni were arrested in southern Germany in November 2009.

Prior to that, Murwanashyaka had studied in Bonn and had successfully applied for asylum, moving to Mannheim. Musoni had been living in the south-western town of Neuffen.

Murwanashyaka was among 15 people whose assets were frozen by the UN Security Council in 2005 on suspicion of involvement in war crimes.

The FDLR was created by perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, who fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after being routed and driven out by forces led by current President Paul Kagame.

Murwanashyaka, aged 47 and the 49-year-old Musoni are suspected of issuing orders to a mostly ethnic-Hutu militia involved in crimes against Congolese civilians. German federal prosecutors said the two coordinated between January 2008 and July 2009 FDLR attacks in eastern DRC that saw hundreds of civilians killed, large numbers of women raped and villages looted.

Investigators went to Rwanda

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."

Murwanashyaka (in a 2008 interview with Deutsche Welle)

Murwanashyaka was the suspected leader of a Hutu militia

The group is considered a key source of insecurity in Africa's Great Lakes region.

After their arrest, German prosecutors traveled to Congo to gather evidence from witnesses and survivors.

Kagame has criticized Western countries in the past for not doing enough to bring FDLR leaders living there to justice.

On November 3, a French court agreed to send Callixte Mbarushimana, another FDLR leader, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges that he masterminded war crimes from his hideaway in France.

A French judge has also placed Rwanda's defense minister and five other aides of Kagame under investigation in a probe into an attack seen as sparking the genocide, legal sources said Thursday.

It was unclear if and when a trial of Murwanashyaka and Musoni would take place.

An estimated 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed in the Rwandan genocide.

On January 18, 2011 Onesphore R., a former mayor, is due to go on trial in Frankfurt an der Oder charged with ordering and organising during the genocide the murder of at least 3,730 Tutsis who had sought refuge in church buildings.

Author: Natalia Dannenberg (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

DW.DE