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Captured Congo rebel leader faces uncertain legal fate after Rwanda arrest

[JURIST] The legal fate of captured Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel leader Laurent Nkunda [BBC profile] remained unclear Saturday, days after his surprise arrest in Rwanda. Nkunda was apprehended Thursday near the border with the DRC after a joint DRC-Rwandan military operation to capture him and root out Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in the DRC. He is the leader of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) [official website], a rebel group operating in the eastern DRC province of Nord-Kivu. The DRC government has called on Rwanda to extradite Nkunda to DRC [BBC report], where he would face charges for atrocities committed by forces under his command. Another possibility for Nkunda is extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in The Hague. While there is no arrest warrant or case outstanding against Nkunda, the ICC has issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] and prepared a case against his deputy in the CNDP, Bosco Ntaganda [ICC materials], for war crimes committed in the DRC, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers [JURIST news archive]. Nkunda has repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] against him and the CNDP.

In November, Alan Doss, the head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MUNOC) [official website] condemned the killing of civilians in Nord-Kivu by militia groups as war crimes [JURIST report]. Prior to Doss' statement, MUNOC announced [press release] that it had received "credible reports" that civilians had been targeted by militia groups including Nkunda's CNDP. Earlier in November, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] reasserted [ICC press release; JURIST report] that the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed in Nord-Kivu, and that his office intends to punish those responsible.

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