A German court on Wednesday began the trial of Rwandan rebel leader Ignace Murwanashyaka and deputy Straton Musoni on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Murwanashyaka was the leader of the predominantly Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The two are accused of wielding “significant influence” over the militia’s operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive], which are thought to include the rape and killing of hundreds of civilians. The two men were arrested [JURIST report] in 2009 following a year-long investigation.
German officials previously arrested [JURIST report] Murwanashyaka in 2006 for alleged violations of immigration laws. In 2005, Murwanashyaka claimed [JURIST report] that the FDLR would end its war against the government and transform its fight into a political struggle. Many rebels fled Rwanda and crossed into eastern Congo 15 years ago after their alleged involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder], during which an estimated 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, died.