Wednesday, May 4, 2011

FDLR Leaders' Case Starts Today in Germany

 A court in Stuttgart, Germany this morning began proceedings against Ignace Murwanashyaka, and Straton Musoni, two senior FDLR leaders accused of crimes committed by their troops in eastern DRC but the trial was immediately suspended after the start.

Murwananshyaka and Musoni, who both lived in Germany before their arrest face 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 war crimes committed between January 2008 and November 2009. They are accused of ordering militias to commit mass murder and rape between January 2008 and the date of their arrest in Germany in November 2009.

Murwanashyaka, the political leader of FDLR and Musoni, his deputy appeared before judges in a small but packed room with more than 70 people present with four lawyers representing each. The two men were present in court but did not talk. The trial was suspended shortly after it began after the defence team filed a motion challenging the impartiality of one of the prosecutors in the case who also doubles as a witness.

The prosecutor is said to have been part of a team that went to eastern DRC to gather evidence against the two men. Therefore, he is both a prosecutor and a witness in the same case, something that defence lawyers contested.

After heated arguments between the two sides, the presiding judges suspended the case until later this afternoon. This trial is the first of its kind in Germany involving crimes committed outside the country. It’s being tried under a new German law that allows prosecution of foreigners for crimes allegedly committed outside Germany.

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