Congo ex-warlord held in Rwanda seeks release


Lawyers for former Congolese warlord Laurent Nkunda said they had filed a motion in Rwanda’s Supreme Court seeking his release from house arrest.

Nkunda has been held in Kigali since January after he fled the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is accused of committing various crimes during his five-year rebellion in the mineral-rich east.
"My client has the right to know why he has been arrested, why he is detained and how long this illegal imprisonment will last," lawyer Stephane Bourgon said in a statement, adding there was no valid arrest warrant or charges against Nkunda.

Rwanda says his detention, seen as part of a deal to mend relations between former foes Rwanda and Congo, is fundamental to regional peace. Both countries began working together on energy projects on Lake Kivu earlier this year.

At Congo’s invitation, Rwanda sent 3500 troops across the border in January to help fight Hutu militia, regarded as the root cause of a 15-year-old regional conflict in which about 5.4 million people have been killed.

The government in Kigali says several legal and political issues needed to be resolved before Nkunda can be extradited. In late 2008 the United Nations accused Rwanda and Congo of supporting opposing rebel groups in Congo’s east.

ICC says Congo warlord Bemba must remain in custody

Meanwhile, Reuters reports Congolese rebel warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba must be detained until his trial, appeals judges at the International Criminal Court said today, reversing a pre-trial decision to release him.

Bemba, whose trial for murder, rape and pillage in the Central African Republic is scheduled for April 2010, had been granted release four months ago pending a decision on which country he would stay in until the start of his trial.

ICC prosecutors appealed against the decision, saying Bemba should remain in custody so that victims and witnesses could be sure a trial would take place, and their safety be guaranteed.

The appeals chamber said the decision to release Bemba could not be made without knowing what country would be prepared to hold him.

Pre-trial judges "disregarded relevant facts" in deciding that a substantial change of circumstances warranted the release of Bemba, the court said in a statement.

Bemba, the highest-profile suspect so far brought before the ICC, is facing trial on two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes for leading rebels from the Democratic Republic of Congo in a campaign of torture, rape and murder in the neighbouring Central African Republic.

Bemba, who was arrested in Belgium in May 2008, denies all the charges and is being held at the UN detention centre in Scheveningen near The Hague.

Established in 2002, the International Criminal Court is the world’s first permanent war crimes court set up to try individuals for war crimes and genocide.