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Rwanda high court sends Congo militia leader case to military court

[JURIST] The Rwandan Supreme Court [official website] ruled on Saturday that the plea for release by Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel leader Laurent Nkunda [BBC profile] can only be heard by a military court. According to Nkunda's counsel, Aime Bokanga, the court held that since the military was responsible for Nkunda's detention, a military court must hear his case [Reuters report] for release. Bokanga expressed disappointment at the ruling, saying that the Supreme Court should have declared Nkunda's detention illegal. The case is expected to be transferred next week. Nkunda is the leader of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a rebel group operating in the eastern DRC province of Nord-Kivu. According to Nkunda's counsel, he is being held illegally [Reuters report] without charge, and has promised [BBC report] to bring the case to the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights [official website] if redress cannot be found in a Rwandan court.

Last April, a Rwandan court rejected [JURIST report] a similar lawsuit seeking Nkunda's release from custody. Nkunda was apprehended by Rwandan authorities in last 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. 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. 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.

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