ICC affirms acquittal of Congolese war crimes suspect

ICC affirms acquittal of Congolese war crimes suspect

[JURIST] The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday upheld [judgment, PDF] the trial chamber’s decision to acquit Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui [case materials], a Congolese man accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Ngudjolo was acquitted in December 2012 of leading a 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], where Ngudjolo and his fighters allegedly destroyed the village, raping and hacking to death some 200 people, including children. In a 3-2 ruling, the majority rejected the prosecutor’s grounds for appeal, which alleged error by trial judges and an unfair trial because prosecutors were unable to cross-examine Ngudjolo. The majority found that the errors were not unreasonable, nor did they materially affect the outcome of the trial. The two dissenting judges said that the appeals chamber should have ordered a new trial because of the errors, noting that evidence may have been disregarded. The prosecutor’s office issued a statement [press release], saying the appeals chamber’s decision brings the case to a close, but the decision does not “negate the fact that crimes were committed in Bogoro.” Ngudjolo was accused of murder, rape and sexual slavery, among other war crime charges.

The DRC has been the site of considerable human rights abuses committed by both government forces and various rebel groups. The ICC in December upheld the conviction [JURIST report] and 14-year prison sentence of former Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [BBC profile]. Lubanga was convicted [JURIST report] in March 2012 for the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. In November Human Rights Watch released a report accusing police officers in the DRC of executing [JURIST report] 51 youths and causing the disappearance of 33 others. The UN issued a report [JURIST report] in October that addressed the human rights violations taking place in connection with Operation Likofi. In July the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict presented a report outlining the situation of the child in the DRC, which found the recruitment of child soldiers [JURIST report] persists. In June the head of the UN Mission in the DRC strongly condemned [JURIST report] an outbreak of deadly violence in the eastern areas of the DRC, sparked by a confrontation over cattle. In April a coalition of 146 Congolese and international human rights organizations released a joint declaration urging the DRC to create new mechanisms in its national justice system [JURIST report] for prosecuting war crimes.