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Rwanda court rejects detained Congo militia leader lawsuit

[JURIST] A Rwandan court rejected a lawsuit brought by captured Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel leader Laurent Nkunda [BBC profile] seeking his release from Rwandan custody. Nkunda was apprehended by Rwandan authorities in January near the DRC border 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) [group website], a rebel group operating in the eastern DRC province of Nord-Kivu. According to Nkunda's lawyer, he is being held illegally [Retuers report] without charges or access to counsel. Nkunda faces an uncertain legal future [JURIST report], with the DRC government having called on Rwanda to extradite Nkunda to DRC [BBC report] where he would face charges for atrocities allegedly 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, head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MUNOC) [official website] Alan Doss condemned the killing of civilians in Nord-Kivu by militia groups as war crimes [JURIST report]. Prior to Doss' statement, MUNOC announced 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 [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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