1. Why was the case being tried in Germany?
The Murwanashyaka and Musoni case was tried in Germany because the two men have been living there since the 1990s. A recently passed German law allows for the prosecution of foreign nationals accused of committing serious crimes abroad. In this case, Murwanashyaka and Musoni were accused of orchestrating FDLR attacks in eastern DRC from their homes and offices in Germany. The German authorities were clearly concerned that that their territory was being used as headquarters for massacres and rapes thousands of miles away, which explains their acute interest in this case.
2. What is the siginficance of this case in the broader field of international justice?
The case is significant in international justice terms for two main reasons. First, this shows the importance of universal jurisdiction or the ability of states to prosecute foreign nationals for serious crimes committed abroad, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This substantially limits the ability of suspects to seek safe haven overseas.
Second, this is the first successful international prosecution of FDLR crimes. The International Criminal Court case in 2011 against alleged FDLR leader, Callixte Mbarushimana (who had been living in France and was extradited to The Hague), collapsed before it came to trial because the Prosecution evidence was so weak. The ICC Prosecutor relied on evidence gathered mainly by third parties – including the almost wholesale copying of Human Rights Watch’s work and other international organisations’ field reports – which the ICC judges quickly rejected. The judges lambasted the Prosecution for cutting corners in its investigations in Congo, which has become common practice as a faraway Court, with stretched resources, struggles to come to terms with complex conflicts across Africa. Following the failure of the ICC case, the German judgement is seen as a major legal blow to the FDLR. It also highlights that individual states such as Germany may be more effective in investigating and prosecuting foreign crimes than the ICC.