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Rwanda denies responsibility

2013-03-19 13:18

Kigali - Rwanda is not responsible for Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda who is currently in the US embassy in Kigali, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Tuesday.

Ntaganda, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, walked into the embassy on Monday and asked to be handed over to the ICC, according to US officials.

The UN experts accuse Rwanda of supporting Ntaganda and his March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group, in violation of arms sanctions. Kigali denies the charges.

"Rwanda has nothing to do with Bosco Ntaganda going to the ICC or not. He is on US territory and now the issue is between the US, DRC and the ICC," Mushikiwabo said in a phone interview.

"The ICC is a political court and we have never believed in its jurisdiction," she added, but pledged to work with the US.

The US is not a party to the ICC treaty, but it could choose to cooperate with the court.

Ntaganda is sought by the ICC for a range of crimes, including recruiting child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery during DRC’s civil war, which ended in a fragile peace in 2003.

The M23 recently split into two factions, with the one loyal to Ntaganda suffering a series of defeats in eastern DRC, forcing its top fighters and political leaders to seeking refuge in Rwanda.

Ntaganda has been in and out of various armed groups in volatile eastern DRC over the last decade.

In 2009, he and loyalist fighters were integrated into the Congolese army, but they defected again last year to form M23, accusing Kinshasa of violating the deal.

The group is largely comprised of ethnic Tutsis, who also make up the majority in the Rwandan government.

"The integration into the Congolese army of former warlords, many of whom are known human rights violators, has fostered a culture that encourages, rather than deters, serious abuses," said pressure group Human Rights Watch.

Uganda, which is facilitating talks between Kinshasa and M23, has said a peace deal could be signed between the stronger rebel faction and the Congolese government within a week. Officials have indicated M23 is seeking reintegration into the army under new terms.

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