Arusha, September 28, 2012 (FH) – A Dutch court has ruled that three Congolese witnesses who testified at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the case of rebel leader Germain Katanga must be allowed to remain in the Netherlands to seek asylum, the Jurist reported on Thursday.

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The three unnamed witnesses, according to the US Web-based legal news, were originally awaiting trial as prisoners in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but were transferred to the ICC's detention center in The Hague in May 2011.

It is reported that since the ICC had originally intended to keep the three in detention and return them to prison after their testimonies, Dutch authorities initially believed that the witnesses were ineligible for asylum in the Netherlands.

However, the three had filed asylum applications and judges declared on Wednesday that they must be allowed to stay, and that the state must inform the ICC that it can take over custody of the witnesses within four weeks of the decision.

In the case, Katanga is charged alongside Mathieu Ngudjolo, another Congolese militia, with crimes against humanity and war crimes, notably for their alleged role in the attack of Bogoro in Ituri District, Eastern DRC, on February 24, 2003, where over 200 people were killed.

The parties presented their closing arguments between May 15 and 23, 2012. Judges in the matter are currently drafting judgment.