On September 28th, 2014 the first trial on universal jurisdiction in Germany came to an end. Since May 2011 FDLR president Murwanashyaka and Vicepresident Musoni were held accountable for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Eastern Congo in the years 2008 and 2009. The FDLR president was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment, his vice president to 8 years.
Since the beginning of trial, the human rights expert of Medical Cares Service for Refugees Bochum (MFH) observed this historic trial and exclusively reported about it in cooperation with the German newspaper “taz”. As MFH and its campaign Justice heals always focused on the need of combating the impunity of crimes against humanity, Bianca Schmolze will present the outcomes of this trial, also in respect to the rehabilitation of survivors of crimes committed by the FDLR. As this was the first trial based on universal jurisdiction Mrs Schmolze will present the difficulties confronted with, especially in relation to witness protection and outreach programs in order to strengthen the universal jurisdiction in Germany for future trials.
Summing up it has to be discussed which effect trials like this have for rehabilitation of survivors, their family members and societies.
This first verdict against the FDLR leaders has some severe contradictions and difficulties. Evidence finding turned out complicated and from the original 16 charges against only four got a verdict.
Murwanashyaka was convicted as ringleader of a foreign terrorist organization that committed war crimes. At the same time, the court decided that he cannot be convicted on the base of §4 Völkerstrafgesetzbuch because the court was not convinced that he had the effective control over the military wing of the FDLR.
Beside their testimony victims/survivors had no possibilities to further participate in the trial because of a lack of outreach programs and without the possibility to be physically present during the trial. Furthermore, the victim witnesses only had a legal assistance, but no psychosocial support.
There needs to be a broad discussion about the adaptation of the German criminal procedure code to improve such trials.
Funding & No Conflicts Declaration
Information presented is based on own analysis. Trail observation was funded by own financial resources. MFH is a non-profit organization.