The Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, former leader of the Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes (FNI), of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of the armed conflict that took place in Ituri from August 2002 to May 2003.
The ICC Trial Chamber also dismissed the Office of the Prosecutor's request for Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui to remain in custody. FIDH, ASADHO, LE and GL call upon the ICC to clearly communicate this decision to victims and affected communities, take all necessary measures for the protection of witnesses, victims and intermediaries and call for reinforced investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators of international crimes in DRC.
The Trial Chamber II considered that the Prosecution did not submit sufficient elements of proof to enable them to conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused was the commander of the Lendu combatants who participated in the attack against the Bogoro village on 24 February 2003 nor that a link between the child soldiers present during the attack and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui existed. "With this decision, the ICC Judges reminded the Prosecution's requirement to demonstrate the attributability of crimes to the suspects, all the more when we are dealing with the most serious crimes", said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President. "This verdict should encourage the Office of the Prosecutor to conduct its investigations more rigorously."
"This decision can only cause disappointment for the Congolese victims of these crimes, who have been waiting for years to obtain justice. It is therefore crucial that the ICC clearly explains to victims and affected communities the reasons and meaning of this decision", declared Dismas Kitenge, FIDH Vice President and GL President. "The Court should also take all necessary measures to ensure witnesses, victims and intermediaries' protection", he added.
This trial has, nonetheless, brought to light the crimes committed in the East of DRC, notably in Ituri. In this regard, "we welcome the fact that the Chamber underlined that this decision does not question that crimes were indeed committed nor deny the victims' sufferance", said Jean-Claude Katende, ASADHO President.
"The ICC and national jurisdictions must continue their work to investigate and send to trial the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed in DRC, where crimes of sexual violence and abductions of children are still being perpetrated in complete impunity", declared Paul Nsapu, LE President.
Our organisations remind the importance of arresting and judging Bosco Ntaganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura, both indicted by the ICC in the framework of the ongoing investigation in North-Kivu. They also call for the incorporation of the definition of the crimes of the Rome Statute into Congolese law.
Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was accused of having committed, through other persons and jointly with Germain Katange, alleged commander of the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), the crimes against humanity of murder, sexual slavery and rape, as well as the following war crimes: using children under the age of fifteen to take active part in the hostilities, directing an attack against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, wilful killings, sexual slavery, rape, destruction of property and pillaging. He was accused of having lead, jointly with Germain Katanga, the attack on the Bogoro village on 24 February 2003, during which around 200 persons were killed.
Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was transferred to the ICC on 7 February 2008, a few months after Germain Katanga. Their two cases were joined on 10 March 2008 and their trial started on 24 November 2009. The Trial Chamber decided to sever the charges against Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and Germain Katanga. The verdict in the case against Germain Katanga will be delivered at a later date.