ICC rejects prosecutor's bid to bar Rwandan rebel's release

19th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The International Criminal Court on Monday rejected a prosecution demand that it suspend an order to free Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana after dropping war crimes charges against him.

The "pre-trial chamber... rejects the prosecution's application," the ICC said on its website, as the prosecution said it was looking at options.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had Friday asked the court to suspend the decision to release Mbarushimana, identified as the executive secretary of the Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group.

He has spent nearly a year behind bars at the ICC's detention unit in The Hague facing eight counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed by rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kivu province in 2009.

But a majority of ICC judges ruled Friday there was not enough evidence to hold the 48-year-old Mbarushimana criminally responsible.

The charges include allegations that FDLR members forced civilian men to rape women, mutilated genitals of rape victims, cut open wombs of women and removed their foetuses, and burnt down homes.

Pascal Turlan, an advisor at the prosecutor's office told AFP on Monday: "The prosecutor's office is evaluating all opportunities for the suspension of the release order, including before the appeals chamber."

Moreno-Ocampo warned Friday that releasing Mbarushimana could see him interfere with the prosecution's investigation.

The former UN computer technician was arrested in Paris in October last year and was transferred to The Hague in January.

Prosecutors accused him of organising a campaign of attacks against Congolese civilians from Paris using "international and local media channels".

The attacks perpetrated by the FDLR resulted in 384 civilian deaths between February and October 2009, as well as 135 cases of sexual violence, 521 abductions, 38 cases of torture and five of mutilation, prosecutors said.

Mbarushimana himself has always insisted he was innocent and denounced the "barbarity" of military force that has ravaged Africa's Great Lakes region.

© 2011 AFP

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