ICC rejects prosecutor's appeal on Rwandan rebel leader

20th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana was a step closer to being released Tuesday after International Criminal Court judges turned down an appeal by its chief prosecutor to keep him behind bars.

"The appeal of the prosecutor... for the stay of order to release Callixte Mbarushimana is inadmissible and dismissed," the appeals chamber of The Hague-based court said in a ruling.

Mbarushimana, 48, spent nearly a year in detention in The Hague, facing 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, before ICC judges Friday dropped charges against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

The crimes including murder, rape and persecution, were allegedly committed by his rebel Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Monday appealed the judges' decision to release Mbarushimana from the court's Hague-based detention unit, as well as its decision to drop the charges against the man identified as the FDLR's executive secretary.

If released, Mbarushimana will be the first suspect to do so since the ICC opened its doors in 2003.

Court spokesman Fadi El-Abdallah said however that Mbarushimana was still subjected to a travel restriction imposed on him by a UN sanctions committee, which prevented him from leaving the Netherlands.

It is up to the UN committee to decide whether it would make a possible exception to the ban, El-Abdallah told AFP.

Mbarushimana's lawyer Arthur Vercken, earlier said his client wanted to return to Paris where he was arrested on an ICC warrant in October last year. He was transferred to The Hague in January.

He said the only hurdle for Mbarushimana now was the lifting of the UN-imposed ban.

"Lifting the ban should not take very long, it could be a matter of hours," Vercken told AFP.

He said his client had been told to "pack his suitcases" and that an airplane ticket had been bought.

"He is ready to leave," Vercken said.

Two of three ICC judges of the court's pre-trial chamber Friday ruled there was insufficient evidence to criminally charge the former UN computer technician, ordering his release.

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 forces that ravaged Africa's Great Lakes region.

His arrest arose from a probe into alleged Congolese war crimes referred to the ICC by the Kinshasa government in June 2004.

But he is also under investigation in France for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide of about 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

© 2011 AFP

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