Int'l Court: No probe on Rwanda-Congo arms issue

Published July 26, 2012

| Associated Press

The International Criminal Court is not investigating Rwanda's alleged support of a rebel group committing atrocities in the Congo, a court official said Thursday.

The court's focus is on the arrest of the rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda of the M23 rebel group, said Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division at the ICC.

"We are not in any way looking at Rwanda and in addition to that Rwanda is not even a state party to the ICC," Mochochoko said.

Rwanda has denied reports by the United Nations and rights groups that it is supporting the M23 rebel movement in East Congo, which has sparked new fighting in the area that has forced more than 200,000 civilians from their homes since April.

The U.S. government cut this year's planned military assistance to Rwanda amid concerns that the government in Kigali is supporting rebel movement.

Earlier this month the ICC issued a second arrest warrant against Ntaganda focusing on crimes he allegedly committed in the Kivus for a year starting in September 2002.

Judges said he is wanted on three counts of crimes against humanity and four of war crimes including murder, rape and sexual slavery, persecution and pillage.

Ntaganda's first arrest warrant charges him with three war crimes committed in the Ituri region of Congo for allegedly using child soldiers.

Ntaganda was first indicted in 2006 but has evaded capture since then. He was co-opted into Congo's army as part of a peace deal, but defected from the armed forces in April with other renegade soldiers and regrouped as the M23 rebel group. The name comes from the date in March 2009 when Ntaganda and his rebels were integrated into the army they have again deserted.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila dismissed calls for his arrest under the first ICC warrant and argued until recently that Ntaganda's cooperation was essential to keeping the peace in Congo's troubled east. U.N. peacekeepers in Congo who should have been arresting Ntaganda were forced to work with soldiers under his command.

Ntaganda denies any part in the mutiny that has again shattered the fragile peace in eastern Congo this year, and the new M23 movement denies that Ntaganda is its leader. But a U.N. experts report that accuses Rwanda of helping create and arm the rebellion, says Ntaganda is behind it and that new recruits from Rwanda are bedded and fed at a hotel Ntaganda owns on Congo's border with Rwanda.

Separately, Mochochoko, who spoke in Kenya after meeting the country's leaders, said cases against four prominent Kenyans, two of whom have declared their intentions to run for the presidency will continue no matter what the outcome of Kenya's March election is.

"There is no immunity of the crimes under the ICC statute. ICC statutes are clear that whether you're the head of state, whether you are prime minister, whether you are a king, if there are crime or if you are alleged to commit the crimes then there is no immunity against you and that you will be investigated and prosecuted," Mochochoko said.

Among the four suspects facing trial at the ICC next April is Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Education Minister William Ruto. Both plan to run for president.

Kenyatta is the son of Kenya's founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the country's richest citizen.

The Kenyans face charges for allegedly orchestrating the violence that broke out in Kenya after the 2007 election. More than 1,000 people died and 600,000 others were displaced by the violence.

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