The International Criminal Court (ICC) will today begin hearing charges against Callixte Mbarushimana, the Executive Secretary of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia.
Callixte Mbarushimana, 47, is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes, which were allegedly committed in 2009 in Kivu Province in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
According to media reports, at least 470 victims will not be allowed to participate in confirmation of charges hearings slated for September 16 to 21, of the rebel leader who was arrested in France last year and repatriated to The Hague.
The move has been condemned by human rights groups which allege that the victims of the former Ex-FAR militias deserve to be part of the justice process.
Reports indicate that only 130 victims have been allowed to participate in the proceedings through their lawyers during the hearings.
According to reports, the ICC Registrar is in charge of receiving, analysing, and transmitting alleged victims requests to the judges. They decide, as a last resort, if a request has a direct link with Mbarushimana's case.
However, in a document presented to the Chamber on June 30, the Registrar explained that 470 requests had not been examined within the set deadline due to lack of means.
“The review and transmission process of applications involves numerous steps (including scanning, registering, data-entry, reviewing and analysing, and preparing individual reports) and requires sufficient human resources in order to respect the Chamber's deadline while ensuring the quality of the work conducted”, part of the report reads.
“Victims are finally coming forward to engage with the court but the court is not ready or capable to deal with them. If this resource issue is not resolved, victim participation will become a meaningless paper promise,” said Carla Ferstman, the head of Redress, a human rights organisation.
Lawyers Ghislain Mabanga and Mayombo Kassongo will represent the 130 acknowledged victims during the confirmation of charges hearings opening next Friday.
A third lawyer, Hervé Diakiese was banned in August from the right to plead before the ICC after being struck off the Congolese's Bar in July.
During the proceedings and until the final verdict, the victim’s role is very limited. They can only start to enforce their rights after the sentence: if the accused is found guilty, victims can ask for compensation.
Apart from the crimes committed in the DRC, Mbarushimana is also accused of participating in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The accused worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and allegedly used the institution’s equipment to facilitate the killing of hundreds in Kigali City.