German court sentences two Rwandan Hutu rebels to long jail terms

jail-loyarburokA German court on Monday sentenced two Rwandan rebel leaders to long jail terms for masterminding massacres in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo from their homes in Germany.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, head of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), received 13 years in prison, while his deputy Straton Musoni was given eight years, judge Juergen Hettich told the court after a landmark trial that lasted more than four years.

“This is not a political trial, but a criminal trial of a significant scale,” the judge said.

The verdict however fell short of prosecutors’ demands that Murwanashyaka be jailed for life with no conditional release after 15 years as is usual practice under Germany’s legal system, and that Musoni serve 12 years.

The two Rwandans, who have lived in Germany for more than 20 years, were accused of a litany of war crimes committed between January 2008 and their arrest in Germany in November 2009.

At the opening of the case, federal prosecutor Christian Ritscher said Murwanashyaka ordered more than 200 killings and “large numbers” of rapes by his militias, had them use civilians as human shields and sent child soldiers into battle in eastern DR Congo.

The FDLR was formed in 1994 by ethnic Hutus, including perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, who fled to neighbouring DR Congo after President Paul Kagame took power.

It is today still sowing terror in resource-rich DR Congo, despite repeated efforts by UN troops and Congolese forces to stamp out the violence.

The trial against the two men had been hailed as a breakthrough by the United Nations after repeated calls by the Security Council to bring FDLR commanders living abroad to justice.

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