The pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) hearing the case against Callixte Mbarushimana has dismissed the charges, finding the prosecution did not establish probable cause to hold Mbarushimana for trial. The case against Mbarushimana, previously detailed here, claimed that he, as the Executive Secretary of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, (FDLR) directed, and had command responsibility for six counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At the time of his arrest, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) detailed the charges this way:
[T}he OTP alleges that Mr. Callixte
MBARUSHIMANA is responsible for the war
crimes of (1) attacks against the civilian
population; (2) destruction of property; (3)
murders or willful killings; (4) rape; (5)
inhuman treatment; and (6) torture, and the
crimes against humanity of (1) murders; (2)
torture; (3) rape; (4) inhumane acts; and (5)
Today, 16 December 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided by Majority, the Presiding Judge Sanji M. Monageng dissenting, to decline to confirm the charges in the case of The Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana and to release Mr Mbarushimana from the custody of the Court, on the completion of the necessary arrangements.
The Majority of the Chamber, comprising Judge Sylvia Steiner and Judge Cuno Tarfusser, found that there was not sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Callixte Mbarushimana could be held criminally responsible, under article 25(3)(d) of the Rome Statute, for the eight counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity brought against him by the Prosecutor.
This decision does not preclude the Prosecutor from subsequently requesting the confirmation of the charges against Callixte Mbarushimana if such request is supported by additional evidence. Both the Prosecutor and the Defense may also appeal the decision declining to confirm the charges and the order for the release of Mr Mbarushimana.
On the basis of the evidence presented, the Chamber found that there are substantial grounds to believe that, from at least 20 January 2009 until at least 31 December 2009, an armed conflict not of an international character took place in the North and South Kivus, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), between the forces of the Government of the DRC, supported at times by Rwandese forces (RDF) or the forces of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the one side, and at least one organised armed group, the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda – Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi (FDLR), on the other.
The Chamber found substantial grounds to believe that FDLR troops committed several war crimes in different locations and at different times, particularly in Busurungi and surrounding villages in March 2009 (murder) as well as on or about 9 to 12 May 2009 (attacking civilians, murder, mutilation, rape, cruel treatment, destruction of property and pillaging); in Manje on or about 20 July 2009 (attacking civilians, murder, cruel treatment and destruction of property); in Malembe on or about 11 to 16 August 2009 (attacking civilians and destruction of property), and in Mianga on or about 12 April 2009 (attacking civilians, murder and destruction of property).
Although the Chamber found substantial grounds to believe that acts amounting to war crimes were perpetrated in five out of the twenty-five occasions identified by the Prosecutor, the Majority found that the evidence submitted was insufficient to be convinced of the existence of substantial grounds to believe that such acts were part of a course of conduct amounting to “an attack directed against the civilian population” pursuant to or in furtherance of an organisational policy to commit such attack, within the meaning of article 7 of the Rome Statute which defines crimes against humanity. Accordingly, the Majority found that there were not substantial grounds to believe that crimes against humanity were committed by the FDLR troops.
The Majority of the Chamber, with the Presiding Judge dissenting, further found that Callixte Mbarushimana did not provide any contribution to the commission of the alleged crimes, even less a “significant” one.
The DRC ratified the Rome Statute, the founding instrument of the International Criminal Court, on 11 April 2002. On 3 March 2004, the Government of the DRC referred to the Court the situation (the events falling under the Court’s jurisdiction) in its territory since the entry into force of the Rome Statute on 1 July 2002. After a preliminary examination, the Prosecutor initiated an investigation on 21 June 2004.
On 28 September 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued a warrant of arrest under seal for Mr Mbarushimana. The warrant was unsealed on 11 October 2010. On 25 January 2011, the French authorities surrendered Mr Mbarushumana to the Court. He was then transferred to the Court’s Detention Centre in The Hague. In the Document Containing the Charges, the Prosecutor charged Mr Mbarushimana with five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, inhumane acts, rape, torture, and persecution) and eight counts of war crimes (attacking civilians, murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, rape, torture, destruction of property and pillaging). The Confirmation of Charges hearing was held from 16 to21 September 2011.
Besides Callixte Mbarushimana, three persons have been transferred to the Court with respect to the situation in the DRC: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. A warrant of arrest has also been issued against a forth (sic) person, Bosco Ntaganda, but has yet to be executed.
Investigations are ongoing with respect to the situation in the DRC
This is the second time a pre-trial chamber has declined to confirm the charges against an accused, the first was the case against Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, who had his case dismissed in February 2010. The prosecution may appeal the court’s determination to not confirm the charges, and is expected to do so. The appeals chamber confirmed the dismissal in Abu Garda’s case.