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In March 2004, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) referred the situation of grave crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the International Criminal Court (ICC). After investigating whether crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC had been committed in DRC, the Chief Prosecutor announced on 21 June 2004 his decision to open the Court’s first investigation.
The Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo decided to focus the investigations on the perpetrators most responsible for crimes committed under the jurisdiction of the ICC, in the region of Ituri (Northeast DRC).
The Prosecutor filed an application for the issuance of warrants of arrest for Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Bosco Ntaganda on 12 January 2006 and for Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui on 22 and 27 June 2007.
Thomas Lubanga Dyilo
Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the President of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and was the Commander-in-Chief of its military wing, the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC). Lubanga is allegedly responsible, as co-perpetrator, of war crimes consisting of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the FPLC and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Following his initial investigation into crimes allegedly committed in the Ituri district since 1 July 2002, the Prosecutor filed an application for the issuance of a warrant of arrest for Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on 13 January 2006. On 10 February 2006, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued a warrant of arrest under seal for Lubanga.
On 17 March 2006, after Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC unsealed the warrant of arrest, he was arrested and transferred to the detention centre in The Hague. On 29 January 2007, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC confirmed the three charges brought by the Prosecution The trial commenced on 26 January 2009 and is the first trial brought before the Court.
Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui
In addition to Lubanga, two other rebels have been indicted: Germain Katanga, also known as "Simba", commander of the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri-FRPI), and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, leader of the Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes (National Integrationist Front-FNI). Katanga and Chui are charged with using child soldiers, attacking civilian targets, destruction of property, rape and sexual slavery as war crimes. They are also alleged to have committed crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and sexual slavery. All these facts were committed in the village of Bogoro in the Ituri district of eastern DRC from January to March 2003.
The arrest warrant for Katanga was issued by the Pre-trial Chamber on 2 July 2007 and unsealed on 18 October 2007. On 6 July 2007, the Pre-trial Chamber issued a sealed warrant of arrest for Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui (unsealed on 7 February 2008). On 10 March 2008, Pre-trial Chamber I joined Katanga's case with that of Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, confirming the charges on 26 September 2008.The trial started on 24 November 2009. It is the second trial before the ICC.
Bosco Ntaganda and Callixte Mbarushimana
Bosco Ntaganda, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the FLPC, remains at large. Ntaganda is alleged to be criminally liable for the war crime of conscripting and using child soldiers in association with the armed conflict in the Ituri region.
Furthermore, in October 2010, Callixte Mbarushimana was arrested in France on charges related to the crimes committed by the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in the Kivu provinces.
With its roots in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the DRC has been the centre of conflict in the African Great Lakes region that have included the first and second Congo Wars, often termed “Africa’s workld war” This conflict involved several neighboring countries, including Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville and Angola. The Second Congo war was the largest conflict in recent history where about five millions people were killed and many millions became refugees and displaced persons.
The Situation in the DRC before the ICC relates in particular to the Ituri conflict in eastern DRC. The Ituri conflict involves two opposed ethnic groups, the agriculturist Lendu and the pastoralist Hema. The cause of the conflict was initially due primarily to economic reasons, but soon evolved into an ethnic conflict. For example, between November 2002 and June 2003, the UPC allegedly killed 800 civilians on the basis of their ethnicity in the gold mining region of Mongbwalu. From 2002 onwards, a large number of rebel groups and smaller factions operated in Ituri. The Hema Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) led by Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the Ngiti Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) and the Lendu Front des nationalists et intégrationnistes (FNI) were the main protagonists in the violence. One of the policies used by the rebels was the recruitment and enlistment of children to take part in the fighting, which is a violation of the laws of war .
The Democratic Republic of the Congo ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 11 April 2002. On 3 March 2004, the government of the DRC referred the situation (all events within the jurisdiction of the Court) on its territory since the entry into force of the Rome Statute on 1 July 2002.
According to the Court’s Statute, the Prosecutor only has jurisdiction (ratione temporis) to prosecute crimes committed after the entry into force of the Statute in 2002. Consequently, despite evidence that crimes were committed in DRC prior to this date, those accused before the Court may only be tried for acts that took place after 2002.
For more information view: Justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A background.
Cases before the ICC for the situation in the DRCThe Controversial Actions of the ICC Prosecutor: a Crisis of Maturity?