Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui

08.06.2015 ( Last modified: 27.09.2016 )
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facts

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, also known as Mathieu Ngudjolo or Cui Cui Ngudjolo, was born on 8 October 1970 in Bunia, in the district of Ituri, a province located in the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Believed to be of Lendu ethnicity, he is married and father of two children.

Early on, he took up a military career and became corporal in the Zairian armed forces (FAZ) of the former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. When the war broke out in 1996, he deserted from the FAZ, which were swept away, within eight months, by a Congolese rebellion supported by Rwanda. For a period of four years, he successfully completed training to be a nurse in Bunia. In 2003, Ngudjolo was appointed to be one of the three top leaders of the Allied Forces of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) and of the FRPI (Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri). (All above are French acronyms)

At the end of 2003, he was arrested by the United Nations on charges of murdering the driver of a taxi-motor bike in Bunia. He was released in 2004 for lack of evidence.

In June 2005, he co-founded and took the head of the Congolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC), a militia which continued to sow terror in Ituri. In July 2006, he signed a peace agreement with Kinshasa, promising to demobilize his troops in exchange for a general amnesty. He was appointed Colonel of the FARDC (Armed Forces of the RDC) in December 2006, and left Ituri in November 2007 to follow a military training center for officers in Kinshasa, where he was arrested on 6 February 2008.

Between January 2002 and December 2003, over 8’000 civilians died and more than half a million persons were displaced from their home in Ituri as a consequence of the armed conflict between the FNI and other armed militias in the region of Ituri. From January 2003 up until at least March 2003, the FNI and the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI) reportedly carried out attacks – in a systematic or widespread manner – against the civilian population of certain parts of Ituri.

As the highest ranking commander of the FNI, Mathieu Ngudjolo was said to have played an essential role in the planning and the implementation of an indiscriminate attack against the village of Bogoro in Ituri, on or around 24 February 2003, together with other commanders of the FRPI. He was also believed to have ordered his subordinates to carry out this attack.

On the morning of 24 February 2003, members of Ngudjolo’s militia allegedly entered the village of Bogoro and launched an indiscriminate attack, targeting mainly civilian members of the Hema ethnic group. It was alleged that the FNI had children under the age of fifteen actively participate in this attack during which at least 200 civilians perished. Moreover, the ones who survived the initial attack were reportedly locked in a building where the dead bodies were piled up. Furthermore, many of the women and young girls were abducted and turned into sex-slaves.

On 6 February 2008, Ngudjolo, who was under military training in Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested in Kinshasa by the Congolese authorities and transferred the following day to the detention centre of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

legal procedure

Mathieu Ngudjolo, who was attending a military training in Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of Congo since the end of 2007, was arrested by the Congolese authorities and transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on 6 February 2008. A sealed warrant of arrest had been issued by the Pre-trial Chamber I of the ICC on 6 July 2007. The warrant was unsealed on 7 February 2008.

Mathieu Ngudjolo was accused of being responsible under article 25-3-a or 25-3-b of the Rome Statute for six counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity, according to articles 7 and 8 of the Statute, allegedly committed in the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo since July 2002:

• three counts of crimes against humanity: murder – article 7(1)(a), inhumane acts – article 7(1)(k), and sexual slavery – article 7(1)(g);

• six counts of war crimes: wilful killing – article 8(2)(a)(i) or 8(2)(c)(i), inhuman treatment – article 8(2)(a)(ii) or cruel treatment – article 8(2)(c)(i), using children under the age of fifteen years to participate actively in hostilities – article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) or article 8(2)(e)(vii), sexual slavery – article 8(2)(b)(xxii) or article 8(2)(e)(vi), intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities – article 8(2)(b)(i) or 8(2)(e)(i), pillaging a town or place even when taken by assault – article 8(2)(b)(xvi) or article 8(2)(e)(v)).

On 10 March 2008, the Pre-Trial Chamber I decided to join the case of Ngudjolo with the case of Germain Katanga.

On 26 September 2008, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued a decision on the confirmation of charges in the case of The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui.

The trial began on 24 November 2009.

Closing statements were pleaded orally by the parties between 15 and 23 May 2012. On 21 November 2012, the Trial Chamber issued a decision in which it decided to disjoin the cases of The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and the cases of the Prosecutor v. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui.

On 18 December 2012, Trial Chamber II of the ICC acquitted Ngudjolo of the charges of three counts of crimes against humanity and seven counts of war crimes. Judges found that the Prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Ngudjolo was responsible for the crimes committed during the attack. Specifically, the Trial Chamber found that the three key witnesses on whom the Prosecution was relying upon almost entirely were not credible, and consequently constituted insufficient proof of Ngudjolo’s role in the attack.

The Prosecutor appealed the verdict. The Prosecution first asserted that the Trial Chamber had applied the standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” incorrectly. The grounds on which the Chamber dismissed the testimonies of the three witnesses were also contested. Finally, the Prosecution alleged procedural errors.

On 21 December 2012, Ngudjolo was released from custody and remained free for the entire duration of the trial.

On 27 February 2015, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the verdict of acquittal, rejecting all three grounds of appeal of the Prosecution. Although the appeal judges have identified the existence of a few procedural violations, these latter had no substantial effect on the guilty verdict.

Since his release in 2012, Ngudjolo Chui applied twice for refugee status in the Netherlands. Dutch courts rejected both requests. Indeed, they considered that Ngudjolo did not manage to prove that he would be subjected to a risk of persecution if he were deported to DRC. Moreover, the judges considered that there are serious reasons to believe that Ngudjolo committed serious crimes prior to his arrival to Netherlands.

Notwithstanding the pending visas requests, the Dutch authorities decided to deport Ngudjolo. The latter arrived by plane in Kinshasa on 11 May 2015. As soon as he landed, he was driven by Congolese authorities to a secret location for security reasons.

Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the Congolese government, explained that Ngudjolo is soon to be transferred to Ituri, his home region. To date, the exact location of Ngudjolo remains unknown.

spotlight

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was the third person in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC), following the arrest of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the alleged founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), on 28 August 2006, and Germain Katanga, the alleged commander of the FRPI, on 17 October 2007.

In April 2004, the Democratic Republic of Congo referred the situation in its territory since the enter into force of the Rome Statute (1st July 2002) to the prosecutor of the ICC, in accordance with Article 14 of the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor thus had to conduct investigations in order to determine whether one or several persons committed crimes which fall under the jurisdiction of the Court. The Congolese authorities for their part are obliged to cooperate with the ICC. The Prosecutor had already been following the situation in the DRC, in particular in the Ituri region, since 2003.

The verdict reached by the Trial Chamber II on 18 December 2012 was the very first acquittal ever decided by the International Criminal Court.

context

THE FIRST CONGO WAR

After almost 40 years under the dictatorship of Mobutu, a new period of conflicts broke out in 1996 in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Belgian Congo, Congo-Leopoldville or Zaire), as a result of the spill-over of the civil war raging in the neighboring Rwanda. At the end of the armed conflict – involving Rwanda and Uganda – Mobutu had to abscond, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila become the new Congo’s President.

THE SECOND CONGO WAR

Already in 1998 Kabila’s alliance with Rwanda and Uganda had turned in a state of hostility. Rebel groups engaged an armed conflict against governmental forces. Due to the involvement of about 25 armed groups and eight States – Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe supporting DRC’s government, versus Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi supporting the rebels – the war is also known as Great War of Africa.

On 18 January 2001 Laurent Kabila died for the consequences of an attempt to his life, leaving the country in his son Joseph’s hands. After various ceasefire agreements during the years, the war formally ended in 2002. The peace agreement leads to new elections, won by Joseph Kabila.

THE CONFLICTS IN NORTH KIVU, SOUTH KIVU AND IN ITURI

New armed conflicts continued however in border regions of DRC between governmental forces and rebel groups. Ethnical differences and the high amount of natural resources present in the Kivus and in Ituri are among the main causes of the hostilities. Despite the fragile peace agreements signed in 2007 (Ituri) and in 2009 (Kivus), thousands of people keep dying due to famine and devastations left by the conflicts.

INTERNATIONAL PROCEEDINGS

In 2005 the International Court of Justice recognized Uganda’s responsibility for violation of DRC territorial integrity during the Second Congo war, and for the unlawful exploitation of a consistent amount of DRC’s natural resources.

In 2005 Joseph Kabila referred DRC’s situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the Prosecutor to open investigations on crimes committed anywhere on DRC’s territory since the entry into force of the ICC Statute. To date the ICC has indicted five people for the situation in DRC. Among these, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the first person ever to be convicted by the ICC.