ICC declines to charge Rwandan rebel for DR Congo crimes

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Judges of the International Criminal Court on Friday decided not to charge Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana for crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and ordered his release.

"The pre-trial chamber decided by majority, presiding Judge Sanji Mmasemono Monageng dissenting, to decline to confirm the charges in the case of The Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana," the court said in a statement. It then ordered Mbarushimana's release.

But ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's office said it was studying the judges' arguments and would lodge an appeal.

"The office of the prosecutor is analysing the arguments by the majority and the minority of the chamber," his spokeswoman Florence Olara told AFP.

"The office will seek a review by the appeals chamber who will make a final decision," Olara said.

Identified as the executive secretary of the Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group, Mbarushimana faced 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in DR Congo's Kivu provinces in 2009.

The majority of judges found "there was not sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Callixte Mbarushimana could be held criminally responsible for eight counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity," the court's statement added.

The 48-year-old Mbarushimana, a former UN computer technician, was arrested in Paris in October last year and was transferred to the ICC's detention unit in The Hague in January.

Prosecutors accused him of organising a campaign of attacks against Congolese civilians from Paris.

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.

It id only the second time that the world war crimes court has declined to charge a suspect before the court, the first case involved Sudanese rebel leader Abu Garda in February 2010.

The Hague-based court, founded in 2002, is the first permanent international criminal tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

© 2011 AFP

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