On December 18, 2012, hours after acquitting Mathieu Ngudjolo of seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity, Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court ordered the immediate release of Ngudjolo. The prosecution had applied for Ngudjolo to remain in custody pending appeal. The Trial Chamber rejected that application and Ngudjolo is set to be released shortly.
The prosecution argued that there were exceptional circumstances that meant Ngudjolo should remain in custody while it appeals the Trial Chamber judgment, even if he had been found innocent of the charges against him. The prosecution argued that there is a danger that if Ngudjolo were released, he would flee or that the ICC would not be able to regain custody of him. Ngudjolo escaped from prison in the DRC and has many international contacts, which the prosecution claimed is evidence that he would attempt to flee the court’s jurisdiction. The prosecution also argued that throughout the trial the Trial Chamber had acknowledged that Ngudjolo constituted a flight risk.
The Trial Chamber disagreed. It found that there are no exceptional circumstances which would justify Ngudjolo’s continued detention, stressing that freedom is the rule and detention the exception.
The prosecution has requested that the Appeals Chamber suspend the release pending its appeal of the Trial Chamber’s decision. It is not clear where Ngudjolo will go if the Appeals Chamber denies this request and he is released.