18 April 2019

Rwanda: Rebel Leader Dies in Germany Awaiting Retrial

Ignace Murwanashyaka allegedly led a Rwandan militia in eastern Congo from his home in Germany. His war crimes conviction in 2015 was groundbreaking for Germany, but the case was overturned.

A former Rwandan militia leader died in Germany on Tuesday while awaiting retrial for alleged war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Ignace Murwanashyaka, 55, was president of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) during its operations in eastern DRC in 2008 and 2009.

In 2015, he was convicted by a Stuttgart court of leading a terrorist organization and four counts of being an accessory to war crimes during those operations. It found he masterminded massacres and other war crimes and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.

However, the ruling was overturned last year due to procedural errors and a retrial was still pending. He was kept in custody pending the new trial.

An eight-year sentence for his deputy, Straton Musoni, was not overturned.

Murwanashyaka's health deteriorated suddenly on April 11 and he died in hospital a few days later, the court in south-western Germany said. It did not provide further details of his condition.

Slaughter directed from Mannheim

During the initial trial, prosecutors argued that Murwanashyaka had directed the militia from his home in Mannheim, in southwest Germany, via phone, text message and email. His lawyers had argued he was only a political leader and did not control the military wing.

The case focused on five raids by FDLR rebels on Congolese settlements in the region of North Kivu.

The trial was groundbreaking in that it dealt with crimes commited overseas by a person living in Germany.

The FDLR operated in eastern DRC and its ranks were mostly filled by Hutu refugees who fled from Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, in which more than 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed.

aw/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, epd)



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