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French high court allows Congo war crimes investigation to resume

[JURIST] The French Court of Cassation [official website], the country's highest court on civil and criminal affairs, has ruled that a war crimes investigation [Trial Watch backgrounder] against Republic of Congo (ROC) [CIA backgrounder] President Denis Sassou Ngusseo [Wikipedia profile] and other officials for crimes against humanity can proceed. The decision overturned a 2004 judgment of the Paris Court of Appeal that halted the investigation on the grounds that French magistrates did not have jurisdiction to investigate former police chief Jean-Francois Ndengue and General Norbert Dabira, both of whom own homes in France. Ngusseo called the ruling a "provocation" on Congo state television and characterized the ruling as an intrusion on Congo's domestic affairs.

The officials are accused of being responsible for the "Brazzaville Breach Disappearances" in 1999, where over 350 Congolese refugees returning from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) disappeared. French investigations were initiated in early-2002 following the filing of a complaint by relatives of victims. In December 2002 the Republic of Congo filed a complaint [ICJ backgrounder] in the International Court of Justice [official website] (ICJ) against France asserting that the French investigation should be halted as it violated the international law "principle of sovereign equality" amongst states and sovereign immunity afforded to Heads of State. VOA has more.

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