ICC dismiss Rwanda rebel Callixte Mbarushimana charges

Callixte Mbarushimana Callixte Mbarushimana was a senior member of the FDLR in 2009

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War crimes judges in The Hague have dismissed charges against a Rwandan rebel leader accused of murder and rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The judges at the International Criminal Court ordered the release of Callixte Mbarushimana because of lack of evidence to back up the charges.

Prosecutors said they would appeal, requesting to halt the release.

Mr Mbarushimana, a Hutu rebel leader, has denied ordering his fighters to kill and rape civilians in 2009.

Years of unrest

The judges at the ICC's pre-trial chamber declined to confirm the charges against Mr Mbarushimana, 47, by a majority decision.

They said that "there was not sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds" to believe that the Rwandan rebel could be held criminally responsible.

Mr Mbarushimana, 47, faced five counts of crimes against humanity and eight counts of war crimes, including charges of murder, torture, rape, inhumane acts and persecution, and destruction of property.

He was a senior member of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) operating in eastern DR Congo.

Troublesome neighbours

Rwanda map
  • April-June 1994: Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
  • June 1994: Paul Kagame's Tutsi rebels take power in Rwanda, Hutus flee into Zaire (DR Congo)
  • Rwanda's army enters eastern Zaire to pursue Hutu fighters
  • 1997: Laurent Kabila's AFDL, backed by Rwanda, takes power in Kinshasa

The prosecutors said they planned to appeal against the ruling. To do so, they must submit additional evidence.

The prosecutors also filed a request to halt Mr Mbarushimana's release pending the outcome of the appeal.

In Friday's ruling, the ICC judges also said there were substantial grounds to believe that FDLR members had committed several war crimes in DR Congo in March-July 2009.

However, they said those attacks against civilians could not be classified as crimes against humanity.

Mr Mbarushimana was arrested in Paris last October, following a request from the ICC.

Some FDLR leaders allegedly took part in the 1994 slaughter of some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

After a Tutsi-dominated group took power ending the genocide, some FDLR members fled into what is now DR Congo, sparking years of unrest in the region.

Rwanda has twice sent its troops into DR Congo, saying they are needed to stop Hutu fighters, such as the FDLR, from using Congolese territory to attack Rwanda.

This led to the six-year conflict in DR Congo and the deaths of some five million people.

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