Italy court stops trial of UN staffers in ambassador to Congo murder case News
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Italy court stops trial of UN staffers in ambassador to Congo murder case

An Italian judge ruled on Tuesday that two UN agency employees cannot be tried over the deaths of an Italian ambassador, his bodyguard and a driver in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to Rome daily newspaper Fatto Quotidiano. During a preliminary hearing, Judge Marisa Mosetti found that the UN agency employees have diplomatic immunity, prohibiting any Italian trial. 

The case originated with the 2021 deaths of Italian ambassador to the DRC Luca Attanasio, his bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci and driver Mustapha Milambo. The three were killed during a failed kidnapping attempt while underway to a World Food Program (WFP) project. In 2023, a local military court convicted the six men responsible for the attack, which occurred near Virunga National Park in the eastern part of the DRC. The court sentenced the six men to life in prison for their roles in the killings.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome had requested a trial for Rocco Leone and Mansour Luguru Rwagaza, two individuals who were the deputy chief of the WFP in DRC and a security officer, respectively, at the time of the attack. Accusing Leone and Rwagaza of negligence in organizing the trip, the prosecution sought to hold them responsible for Attanasio and his convoy’s deaths. 

Mosetti asserted in her Tuesday verdict in Rome that, as employees of a UN agency, the two men enjoyed diplomatic immunity and are therefore shielded from criminal prosecution. A lawyer from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation had weighed in on the issue of immunity during a January 24 hearing. Though there was some question as to proper procedure in communicating the immunity—which the Public Prosecutor’s Office sought to utilize in their arguments—the lawyer ultimately urged the court to find there was immunity for the two UN employees.  

On Tuesday, Attanasio’s father, Salvatore Attanasio, told Fatto Quotidiano the court’s ruling was a bitter result announced just days before the third anniversary of his son’s killing. The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome has said that it intends to appeal.