The accused were respectively president and vice-president of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group active in eastern Congo. They are notably charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for their command responsibility in crimes committed by FDLR militiamen in eastern Congo between January 2008 and November 2009.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), they are also suspected "of instigating and ordering the implementation of a strategy under which FDLR troops would create a "humanitarian catastrophe" in eastern Congo", to force the international community to press Rwandan government to negotiate with the FDLR.
Wednesday, before the charges could be read, defence lawyers sought to have the proceeding suspended on the ground that evidence provided by the UN was incomplete. The judge is considering the motion.
This trial is the first to implement Germany's Code of Crimes against International Law, adopted in June 2002, which integrates the crimes of the statute of the ICC into German criminal law, allowing German court to try foreigners for crimes carried out abroad.
Ignace Murwanashyaka, 47, has lived in Germany since 1989. He became FDLR President in 2001. Straton Musoni, 49, was living in Germany since 1994. Both were arrested in Germany in November 2009.
HRW estimates that 2,500 to 3,000 FDLR rebels are still killing, looting and raping women in eastern Congo.
© Hirondelle News Agency