ICC Congo witness on hunger strike over asylum bid

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A Congolese witness who implicated President Joseph Kabila in testimony at the International Criminal Court has gone on hunger strike over his stalled Dutch asylum bid, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Floribert Ndjabu has been placed under medical observation at the ICC's detention unit in The Hague, where he has been held for over three years after seeking asylum in the Netherlands, fearing prosecution if he is sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), lawyer Ghislain Mabanga told AFP.

"This is the last option, all other paths have been blocked, all procedures at the ICC have been exhausted," Mabanga said.

"He will be on hunger strike until a solution is found," he said: "He's doing badly, he's very weak."

The ICC was not immediately available for comment.

Ndjabu is one of three witnesses who sought asylum in the Netherlands after giving testimony in 2011 in the cases of Congolese former militia bosses Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and Germain Katanga.

Ndjabu, Pierre Celestin Mbodina and Manda Charif were sent from a prison in DRC where they were being held pending trial for alleged war crimes.

The ICC's Appeals Chamber in January ordered the three men to be sent home, pressing the Dutch authorities for a decision on their asylum bid.

However, three years after they testified and filed asylum claims, their case is still pending before the Dutch Supreme Court, which is to begin hearings on June 6.

"Floribert is desperate because he's been held at the detention unit for three years as an asylum seeker and the Netherlands refuses to take him," lawyer Mabanga said.

"He's afraid that the process will go on much longer and that he'll be in detention for many more years."

Mabanga said one of the other witnesses was also thinking of going on hunger strike.

Warlords Ngudjolo and Katanga were accused of being involved in the massacre of more than 200 people in the village of Bogoro in the DRC's restive northeastern Ituri province in 2003.

The witnesses' testimony included the allegation that Kabila had a hand in the Bogoro attack.

In December 2012, Ngudjolo was acquitted of war crimes after judges said prosecutors failed to prove his commanding role in the Bogoro attack.

Katanga was convicted in March of complicity in the attack. He is to be sentenced at another hearing, pending his appeal.

© 2014 AFP

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