The former head of a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be tried in France on charges of “complicity in crimes against humanity,” a source close to the matter told AFP on Wednesday.
An investigating judge ordered the trial of Roger Lumbala, 65, who has been detained in France since his arrest at the end of 2020, on Monday, the source said.
Lumbala is a former opposition lawmaker who led the RCD-N party, an armed group suspected by UN investigators of carrying out extrajudicial killings, rapes, and cannibalism during the country’s civil war from 1998-2002.
The charges concern his actions in 2002 in the northeastern Ituri region predominantly against the Nande and Twa ethnic groups, prosecutors said at the time of his arrest.
A United Nations report published in 2003 first pointed the finger at Lumbala, who became a minister in his country’s transition government between 2004 and 2005.
Lumbala, who rejects the allegations, was arrested following a police investigation launched in December 2016.
The French judiciary has the right to arrest and prosecute suspects in crimes against humanity cases committed abroad.
Human rights NGOs welcomed the news.
In a joint statement, the Clooney Foundation for Justice, TRIAL International, Minority Rights Group and Justice Plus said that “this indictment means that there is sufficient evidence to try Roger Lumbala for complicity in crimes against humanity and conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity.”
The trial would probably be held in Paris in 2025, the groups said.
The fact that Lumbala was a long-time resident in France meant the French justice system had grounds to investigate the crimes committed in the DR Congo, they said.
“Lumbala’s trial in France represents the first glimmer of hope for Congolese victims of the Second Congo War who have been waiting for justice for over two decades,” said Xavier Macky, director of Justice Plus.