International Criminal Court Issues First-Ever Acquittal

Ex-militia boss Mathieu Ngudjolo faced war crimes charges

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 18, 2012 11:23 AM CST

(Newser) – The International Criminal Court has handed down its first acquittal. Judges in the Hague called for the "immediate release" of Congolese ex-militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo, who was accused of of commanding fighters who brought ruin to a Democratic Republic of Congo village in 2003, al-Jazeera reports. Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said that though war crimes may have been committed, witnesses were "too contradictory and too hazy" on the facts to prompt a guilty verdict. Some 200 people were killed, many of them raped and set on fire, in the massacre.

The ICC's chief prosecutor says she plans to appeal the verdict, but experts doubt a reversal is in the cards. New evidence cannot be heard by an appeals panel, Reuters notes. It's just the second decision by the 10-year-old court. (This was the first.) The acquittal raised criticism from rights groups and will likely fuel further controversy over the institution: The court has already seen complaints over its slowness and cost, as well as its emphasis on African cases, writes Jon Silverman for the BBC. He also raises questions of political bias. Some are concerned the court doles out "victor's justice," benefiting those currently in power or favored by the international community. A former international prosecutor calls for reform of the ICC and its "grand buildings, robes, (and) excessive deference."

Former leader of the National Integrationist Front Mathieu Ngudjolo awaits his verdict at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012.
Former leader of the National Integrationist Front Mathieu Ngudjolo awaits his verdict at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012.   (AP Photo/Robin van Lonkhuijsen, Pool)
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