Groundbreaking trial in Germany: Rwandan FDLR rebel leaders sentenced
On 28 September 2015 the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart handed down convictions in the trial of two Rwandan leaders of the Hutu militia group FDLR. Ignace Murwanashyaka, president of the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Straton Musoni, his vice president, were on trial for committing grave breaches of international law in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008/2009. They were sentenced to thirteen and eight years in prison respectively.
The main defendant Murwanashyaka was convicted of aiding war crimes under the German Code of Crimes against International Law and leadership of a foreign terrorist group (paragraph 129 b of the German Criminal Code). His deputy Musoni was convicted of leadership of a foreign terrorist group.
The FDLR war crimes trial marked the first time that a German court applied the German Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch), which was introduced in 2002 to bring German criminal law into line with the criminal provisions in the statute of the International Criminal Court.
ECCHR Report on the FDLR Trial
ECCHR monitored the trial in Stuttgart from the very beginning and regularly published status reports. On 8 June 2016 the organisation published its final report. Based on the monitoring carried out over four and a half years, the report examines the following questions, among others: Can this trial serve as a model for other international criminal proceedings in Germany? How can the prosecution and courts remedy shortcomings in addressing international crimes, especially concerning charges of sexualized violence? What significance does international criminal law have in the global fight against impunity?
Summary of "Universal Jurisdiction in Germany? The Congo War Crimes Trial: First Case under the Code of Crimes against International Law" (English)FDLR Report Executive Summary_EN.pdf (278.4 KiB)
Compétence universelle en Allemagne? Procès des crimes de guerre en RDC (résumé en français)FDLR Report Résumé_FR.pdf (283.4 KiB)
Background of the Congo War Crimes Trial
For several years now, the FDLR has been carrying out attacks on the Congolese civilian population in eastern Congo. The FDLR is mainly made up of Hutu refugees who fled to eastern Congo from Rwanda in 1994 and over the years that followed. From there, the FDLR have been fighting the Rwandan Government led by Paul Kagame.
Attempts by the UN and the DRC to disarm the FDLR have continually been met with reprisals against the Congolese civilian population. Huge numbers of women have been subjected to rape and other crimes. In spring 2009 the FDLR once again intensified its attacks on the civilian population in eastern Congo.
Sexualized Violence by FDLR Forces
Murwanashyaka was accused of being responsible for crimes against humanity, particularly killing and sexual coercion or rape. He also faces accusations of war crimes, particularly the killing, cruel or inhumane treatment, sexual coercion or rape of a person protected under international humanitarian law, as well as forcibly recruiting child soldiers and perpetrating war crimes against property.
The FDLR are alleged to have utilized sexualized violence against the Congolese civilian population as part of their battle strategy, and to have in numerous cases plundered, killed and inflicted grievous bodily injuries. In many cases women are said to have been brutally abused, injuries which in some cases were fatal. Murwanashyaka is not accused of committing these acts himself, but of failing to take action to prevent his subordinates from carrying out the acts in question (command responsibility).