Germany charges 2 Rwandan men with war crimes

German prosecutors said Friday they filed war crimes charges against two Rwandan men suspected of issuing orders to a mostly ethnic Hutu militia involved in killings of Congolese civilians.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, 47, and Straton Musoni, 49, were charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and membership in a foreign terrorist group, federal prosecutors said in a statement. The charges were filed at the Stuttgart state court on Dec. 8.

The men allegedly served as the top military leaders of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda militia — known by its French acronym FDLR. They are alleged to have exercised "significant influence" over the militia as it carried out acts of war in Congo.

Murwanashyaka and Musoni were arrested in Germany in November 2009.

Founded in the Congolese city of Lubumbashi in 2000, the FDLR is an extremist group made up of Hutu refugees from Rwanda who took cover across the border in Congo after the 1994 genocide in which more than 500,000 people were killed, mostly ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.

The German prosecutors' statement said the FDLR is operating from eastern Congo and trying to bring down Rwanda's government.

It secures its power in eastern Congo "by regular, violent assaults on local civilians ... including homicide, battery, rape, sexual enslavement, violent land seizure, robbery, looting and pillage."

Murwanashyaka allegedly served as FDLR's president from 2001 and Musoni served as vice president from 2004, and the pair controlled the militia group from Germany, prosecutors said.

The two defendants are specifically held responsible for 26 crimes against humanity and 39 war crimes that were committed by militiamen under their command in Congo from January 2008 to November 2009, the statement said.

That allegedly involved the killing of more than 200 people, the rape of numerous women, civilians being used as human shields in attacks and children being forced to serve as soldiers in the FDLR.