Matthieu Ngdolo Chui, alleged to have been a leader of militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was found not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity today by Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court. This is the second verdict issued by the ICC. Thomas Lubanga was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to 14 years for the war crimes of recruiting and enlisting child soldiers in the DRC. That case is in its reparations phase.
Chui was indicted and initially tried as a co-defendant with Germain Katanga, but the case was severed November 21, 2012. Judges are considering motions to change the case and mode of liability for Katanga. The defense began presenting its case in November 2011. The prosecution began presenting its case in November 2009.
There were many issues with the case as it proceeded, including a motion from the prosecution to declare its own witnesses hostile. Defense witnesses testified, then sought asylum in The Netherlands. Ultimately, the court decided the witnesses who testified that Chui was the leader of the Lendu militia during an attack on the Bogoro village in the Ituri district of the Eastern DRC were not credible and that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Today’s decision will undoubtedly be a disappointment to the all-too-many victims of the most terrible crimes in a part of the world that has reported, decade after decade, millions of lost lives and where the ICC has tried its best to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity in an ongoing conflict zone, nevertheless, the rule of law must be respected if peace and stability are our ultimate goals. The Coalition urges the ICC to explain today’s decision to victims and affected communities, as well as the reasons behind the delayed verdict against Germain Katanga. said William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.
Either side can appeal the decision, a trait of Civil Code systems used in much of Europe, under Common Law, used in the U.K., the U.S. and other former British Colonies, an acquittal cannot be appealed.