Batwa: ICC to start investigation on crimes against Batwa
"We have finalised and signed an accord with the government to permit the investigation," Yves Sorokobi, the spokesperson for the court's prosecutor, told IRIN.
The court's assistant prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, and the minister for justice, Kisimba Ngoy, signed the accord in the capital, Kinshasa.
Ngoy said the court now had "jurisdiction" to operate in the country.
A 12-member delegation from the two-year-old court, headed by Brammertz, arrived in Kinshasa on Monday to finalise the accord. The court is due to be properly established in the country by the beginning of 2005.
The court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, first formally considered investigating crimes in the DRC earlier this year, following a request by President Joseph Kabila for him to do so.
In June, Moreno-Ocampo agreed to start investigations, particularly into crimes perpetrated in the troubled district of Ituri, in northeastern DRC. He is investigating crimes committed in the north of Uganda, following a request by the president of that country.
"The court can only investigate serious crimes committed since July 2002," Ngoy said. He was referring to the date the ICC was created, which is also the date from which crimes must have been committed in order for the court to have the mandate to investigate and prosecute them.
"The Congolese judiciary will deal with a number of crimes committed before that date," he said.
Numerous human rights violations and other serious crimes were reportedly perpetrated in the DRC during five years of war. And crimes are reportedly still being committed, particularly in the east of the country, despite a global peace agreement signed in December 2002.
According to NGOs, on-going fighting between armed groups in Ituri has left tens of thousands dead and at least 500,000 people displaced. The serious crimes committed there include allegations of cannibalism against the Batwa people, also known as Pygmies.
Sorokobi said the office of the prosecutor "has received
relevant information from President Joseph Kabila as well as other recent information,
but we are not able to make a comment on it".
Source: IRIN News