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International Criminal Court Investigations DRC

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In 1998, Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels overthrew the existing government in Kinshasa, the DRC capital. Since then, many different factions in the DRC have waged a violent war with both national and international dimensions. While most of the atrocities were committed within Congolese borders, forces from six neighboring countries have participated in some way in the strife.

This adds a great degree of complexity to the International Criminal Court investigations in the DRC, which began in July 2003 at the initiative of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

Originally, the ICC investigations focused on Ituri, a region in eastern Congo; however, it soon became evident that the scope of the war crimes and grave human rights violations extended past the region's borders. In March 2004, President Joseph Kabila referred to the ICC the crimes committed throughout all the territory of Congo, not only those in Ituri. The ICC investigations have so far led to the arrest of three militia leaders.

In the articles and documents below, GPF tracks the development of the ongoing investigation in the DRC.


Articles and Documents

 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |2008 |2007 |2006 |2005 |2004 | 2003


Kagame Defies UN Condemnation Over Backing for Congo Warlord's Insurgency(September 28, 2012)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon tried to negotiate an agreement that would end Rwandan support for a rebel group in the eastern DRC. The group M23 has been charged with atrocities by the ICC, but Rwanda, soon to join the UN Security Council apparently has the quiet backing of the US. A temporary freeze in foreign aid to Rwanda by the US and the EU is unlikely to shift the decision, since Rwanda makes huge profits from Congolese resources. A UN peacekeeping operation it seems is not in the cards. (Guardian)

Thomas Lubanga, Congolese Warlord, Convicted of Using Child Soldiers (March 14, 2012)

The International Criminal Court is unlike earlier tribunals, which were set up by the Security Council with specific targets, because the ICC is free to choose which crimes to pursue.  With its first verdict, the ICC convicted Thomas Lubanga of Congo of recruiting and using child soldiers. Lubanga allegedly led the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) into a conflict that killed 10,000 people. The ICC’s decision evoked mixed feelings: some victims of FPLC were relieved, while other Congolese felt that Lubanga, a “lower-rank” war criminal, was unfairly targeted by the ICC. (al Jazeera)


The ICC’s First Trial: Milestones Mixed with Near-Disasters (August 19, 2011)

The first trial undertaken by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against militia commander Thomas Lubanga Dyilo from Eastern Congo is now entering its final stages. The proceedings against Lubanga started nearly six years ago and have on several occasions almost been derailed. Lubanga is accused of war crimes consisting of enlisting and conscripting children as soldiers of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. The ICC plays a crucial role as a watchdog over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. However, the case of Lubanga illustrates the complexities surrounding prosecutions and investigations of international crimes which can prolong the proceedings. (Open Society Justice Initiative)

DR Congo: Pass Mixed Court Law (August 17, 2011)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has taken a step towards establishing a mixed court that would have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the DRC after 1990. This special court would be comprised of international and national staff and would prosecute serious crimes not being tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC). A group of 30 human rights organizations believes that the proposed legislation holds great promise in the fight against impunity. However it calls for an amendment of the proposal, which mandates that all individuals convicted by the court be sentenced to death. Critics of the mixed court system are also weary that the court will not be wholly independent. (Human Rights Watch)


The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC has scheduled a confirmation of charges in the case of Hutu rebel group FDLR secretary Callixte Mbarushimana in July 2011. The confirmation hearing determines whether there is sufficient evidence to strongly suspect that Mbarushimana is guilty of five counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes, allegedly committed in January 2009 in the Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mbarushimana was apprehended by French authorities on October 11th, 2010 after the Pre-Trial Chamber issued an arrest warrant a month before. The case will proceed to the trial stage if the charges are confirmed. (ICC)
Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former vice-president of DRC, is on trial at the International Criminal Court. He faces five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity - crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) when he was a militia leader. He is the most high-profile person to face trial by the ICC. At a pre-trial news conference, a video conference with the capitals of DRC and CAR enabled local journalists to question the ICC's chief prosecutor and defence counsel. However, the ICC still remains far removed from the majority of Africans, which leads to widespread questioning of its legitimacy. (BBC)

Congo under Increased Pressure from the US to Deliver on Justice (March, 2010)

The United States is not a state party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and is known for its indifference towards the Court. The US, however, keeps raising its concerns over African nations' commitment to cooperate with the Court. A recent US outcry followed after the refusal by the Democratic Republic of Congo to arrest General Bosco Ntaganga after an ICC arrest warrant against him. While most Congolese human rights NGO's welcome the US call for justice, some believe the US needs to set the example by joining the ICC first. (Coalition for the ICC)

Congo Warlord Not Guilty, Witnesses Lied - Defense (January 27, 2010)

The defense lawyer of Thomas Lubanga argues that his client had no active role in recruiting child soldiers during the Democratic Republic of Congo's civil war.  The lawyer also alleged that witnesses for the prosecution had lied, arguing instead that Lubanga had tried to demobilize minors from the army ranks.  (New York Times)


Lubanga Trial a Landmark Case (January 23, 2009)

After several delays due to questions about evidence, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started the trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. The Court will charge Lubanga with war crimes for using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This trial is significant as the ICC's first trial since its establishment in 2002. It is also important as the first case in which the use of child soldiers constitutes an international crime. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)


Lubanga Trial Transformed by Victims (September 4, 2009)

Close to a hundred victims are participating in the trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga at the International Criminal Court. It is the first time that victims have been able to present their views before an international court. Although their participation makes it possible to bridge the gap between The Hague and the reality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it also poses legal issues. Recent developments have thrown in sharp relief the difficulty of making victims' participation meaningful while protecting the rights of the defence. (Institute for War & Peace Reporting)


ICC Risks Losing the Plot in Congo (November 21, 2008)

The International Criminal Court loses its credibility with Congolese citizens because it fails to investigate and arrest rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, who allegedly recruited child soldiers in the Ituri region of northeastern Congo. Increased fighting resulted in a cancellation of an ICC research mission to Congo. Because the ICC does not have a police force, it depends on the Congolese government for the arrest of Ntaganda. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)

Thomas Lubanga and the ICC (October 23, 2008)

The ICC's trial chamber halted Lubanga's proceedings because the UN did not permit the prosecutor to share the organization's confidential information with the Trial Chamber and the defense, which is necessary for a fair trial. Because the ICC depends on UN evidence in future cases, it must balance the use of confidential information and a fair trial. (International Center for Transitional Justice)

DRC/ICC: New War Crimes Suspect Arrested (February 7, 2008)

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, a militia leader in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the ICC's third suspect in custody as of the beginning of February 2008. Human Rights Watch applauds this arrest, but maintains that the three rebel leaders now in custody "did not act alone" and that the ICC should investigate senior government officials as well.



Congo Militia Head Lubanga Faces First ICC Trial (November 12, 2007)

The International Criminal Court, established in 2002, has been gaining credibility with 104 nations because of its work against militia leaders, especially within Congo, Sudan and Uganda. The ICC will hold its first trial in March 2008, against the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) leader Thomas Lubanga. ICC prosecutors accused Lubanga of enlisting children as soldiers, as well as ethnic crimes against the Lendu group. (AlertNet)

Congolese War Crimes Suspect Turned Over to International Criminal Court (October 18, 2007)

In June 2004, ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo started to investigate crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, initially against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Dyilo, charged with forcing children into his group, Force de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), will face trial. The ICC prosecutor also wants another commander of the FRPI, Germain Katanga, accused of murder, inhumane acts and sexual enslavement of women in the village of Borogo, to stand The Hague trial. (UN News)

International Criminal Court Considers Holding Trial Hearings in Congo (September 4, 2007)

In what could be a symptomatic move towards acknowledging the limits of a far-away trial, the International Criminal Court is investigating whether hearings for the case of Thomas Lubanga, former Congolese warlord charged with conscripting child soldiers, can be heard in Congo rather than in the Hague. Although most major human rights activists welcomed the attempt to bring justice closer to the victims, Human Rights Watch warns that holding hearings in Congo may not be feasible as the atmosphere remains precarious in the country. Lubanga's supporters feel resentful that he is the only person the Court indicted when all sides to the conflict committed atrocities. (Associated Press)

New Lubanga Judge Keen on DRC Trial (July 24, 2007)

Adrian Fulford, the new judge in the ICC's trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, suggests moving some of the proceedings from The Hague to the DRC. Fulford believes that the ICC should, when possible, hold its trials in the countries where the crimes were committed to ensure comprehensive involvement of the victims and a lasting impact on the countries' future. If or when executed, this procedure will mark the first time in ICC's history that victims will participate in both the investigation of crimes and the trials of suspects. Still, moving the proceedings to the DRC poses security threats and will further lengthen an already slow process. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)

ICC Path to Justice Tested in Congo (May 24, 2007)

As the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors prepare their case against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, the Court faces serious logistical problems and accusations of selective justice. Without a proper enforcement authority, the ICC finds it difficult to act on current search warrants. In some cases, the accused aggravate the conflicts by reacting negatively to the indictments. DRC locals further question the ICC's focus on Thomas Lubanga. They demand the arrest of numerous other leaders responsible for atrocities similar to those committed by Lubanga. (Christian Science Monitor)

ICC Prosecutors Appeal Lubanga Ruling (February 23, 2007)

Pre-trial judges at the International Criminal Court ruled that the war in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo constitutes an "international" conflict, due to the involvement of Ugandan and Rwandan troops. Under this new legal framework, prosecutors will have to gather more evidence to support their case against militia leader Thomas Lubanga - a move that could further delay the proceedings. Some legal analysts charge that the judges have "overstepped" their mark as their role usually lies in either confirming or rejecting an indictment based on the evidence the prosecution presents. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)

Congo Warlord Faces ICC Justice (January 30, 2007)

A three-judge panel ruled that the International Criminal Court's prosecution team has sufficient evidence to indict Thomas Lubanga. The former Congolese warlord faces charges for abducting and training children for military operations during the civil war in the DRC. While the judges did not set a date for the ICC's first trial, the decision represents a significant step forward in the tribunal's efforts to hold to account those who systematically commit human rights abuses. (Agence France Presse)




War Crimes Prosecutor Files Indictment Against Former Congolese Warlord in First ICC Case (August 28, 2006)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has officially charged former militia leader Thomas Lubanga for forcefully recruiting children as soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo's civil war. Although the war began in 1998, the ICC can only indict Lubanga for crimes committed after the Court's inception in 2002. Judges will decide at a September hearing if prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed to trial. (Associated Press)

ICC Enters Uncharted Territory (March 24, 2006)

Pressure has mounted on ICC prosecutors to deliver a "speedy and well-run trial" in the case against Congolese war lord Thomas Lubanga. Lubanga remains the only indicted leader, causing concern that the fragile situation in Lubanga's home province of Ituri will deteriorate. The prosecutor's office assures that further arrests will follow. The trial also marks a first in allowing victims to take an active role in proceedings, present their views to the court and ultimately apply for compensation. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)

D.R. Congo: ICC Arrest First Step to Justice (March 17, 2006)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued its first arrest warrant in its Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) investigation. Thomas Lubanga bas been transferred to The Hague and faces charges for the recruitment of child soldiers who were used in armed conflict. Human Rights Watch welcomes the arrest but believes the ICC prosecutor must press further charges against militia leaders for massacres, tortures and rape. (Reuters)




ICC Launches First Judicial Proceedings on Congo (March 15, 2005)

The International Criminal Court has begun its first judicial proceedings on war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although the pre-trial hearing focuses mainly on procedural issues of witness protection and evidence preservation, the hearing marks the first time since the court's establishment in 2002 that judges are considering a specific war crimes investigation. (Reuters)

ICC Hopes for Uganda Trial in 6 Months, Then Congo (January 26, 2005)

Prosecutors anticipate that the International Criminal Court will begin trying its first war crimes cases in Uganda within six months, followed soon after by hearings for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The trials will concentrate on those individuals considered most responsible for the human rights abuses in their countries, leaving national courts to try soldiers and other subordinates. (Reuters)



The International Criminal Court and Congo: Examining the Possibilities (October 2004)

Crimes of War Project analyzes the complex future relationship between the ICC and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the interests of each side "are seldom perfectly aligned." The authors discuss the state of the ongoing DRC conflict and weigh implications of different judicial measures, but they admit "there is a decidedly idealistic tone that both underpins and animates the movement for international justice."

ICC to Probe Congo Crimes in First Investigation (June 23, 2004)

In its first investigation, the International Criminal Court has begun to inquire into crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prosecutors will investigate crimes committed in Congo since July 2002 when the Court's statute came into force. (Reuters)

In Uncharted Waters: Seeking Justice Before the Atrocities Have Stopped (June 2004)

This report analyzes the role and effectiveness of the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigations in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report concludes that the ICC could play a positive role in resolving ongoing conflicts while fostering the rule of law and promoting social justice. (Citizens for Global Solutions)

Congo Asks for War Crimes Probe (April 19, 2004)

President Joseph Kabila asked the International Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo for an investigation into possible genocide and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ocampo previously vowed to prosecute not only the perpetrators of such crimes, but also entrepreneurs and firms who supplied cash or weapons in exchange for so called "blood diamonds." (Reuters)



War Crimes Court Eyes 'Blood Diamond' Buyers (September 23, 2003)

The International Criminal Court could charge "blood diamond" buyers with complicity in war crimes and genocide. The Court holds third parties legally responsible, as much as "anyone who actually carried out those atrocities," marking a big step forward in stopping the spiral of conflict. (Reuters)

New ICC Chief puts Business Lawyers on Spot (September 18- 24, 2003)

In his first public speech as chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo linked mass killings in The Democratic Republic of Congo to illegal business activities. Now, the businesses and their lawyers could face intense investigations. (Legal Week)



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