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Trials of FDLR Leaders Face Hurdles

On August 17, 2011, the trial at the Hague of Callixte Mbarushamina, the Executive Secretary of FDLR, was postponed. The schedule for the week was to hold public hearings to confirm charges against Callixte Mbarushimana. At the end of the public hearings, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber  was to decide whether or not to confirm all or any of the charges brought against the suspect by the Prosecutor and, if confirmed, to commit him for trial before a Trial Chamber. Subsequently, the  judges at The Hague-based court had to decide within  60 days whether there are grounds to move to trial.

Suddenly, the judges postponed the open hearings despite the objections raised by Callixte Mbarushimana’s lawyer,  arguing that these could not be conducted fairly due to “disclosure related issues”.   Since January 2011, the defense lawyer has submitted several requests for an order to preserve the impartiality of proceedings and for interim releases, which have all been rejected.

According to sources close to the trial, the postponement is rather due to shaky case of the prosecution against the FDLR leaders. It appears that the prosecutor has tough time linking the FDLR leaders to crimes they are accused of.

In fact, the trial of  other FDLR rebel leaders Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni  started in Germany in May 2011 but had  also to be also postponed.  Like  Callixte Mbarushiman, they are accused with counts of crimes against humanity and of war crimes.

After conducting investigations in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and getting testimonies from witnesses and experts, German prosecutors found out that the evidences against Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni appeared weak. The  only promising  counts are those related to command responsibility  for Ignace Murwanashyaka as the FDLR president and for  doing nothing to bring those responsible of the crimes to justice.  The case against Straton Musoni appears even weaker due to lack of  documented involvement in  FDLR military operations.

It appears that both the ICT and German Prosecution are facing an uphill battle in the trial of  the FDLR leaders and the trials are facing more hurdles than anticipated.

© 2011 AfroAmerica Network

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