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Witnesses Returned to DRC

The Netherlands has returned three Congolese witnesses, who testified in the trials of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui before the International Criminal Court (ICC),to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

According to the witnesses’ lawyer, Goran Sluiter, their request for interim measures to prevent their return pending a determination on the issue by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was denied. The ECtHR case is still ongoing, although the witnesses are now in the DRC.

The three witnesses were brought to The Hague in March 2011 to testify in the defense of Katanga and Ngudjolo, who were charged by the ICC with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during an attack on Bogoro, a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The witnesses had been imprisoned in the DRC pending charges related to the conflict there. Therefore, they were incarcerated at the ICC Detention Center during their time in The Hague.

During their testimony, the witnesses implicated the president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, in crimes committed in Bogoro. For this, they claim, they will face torture or death if they are returned to the DRC. Therefore, they claimed asylum in the Netherlands.

Last month, a Dutch court upheld the rejection of their asylum claims and determined that it was safe for them to be returned to the DRC. The Dutch court based its determination in part on an agreement between the ICC and the DRC government regarding the witnesses’ safety and security.