Asylum, politics & justice

07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last of a kind to win asylum. The four defence witnesses were [sentenced to] jail in the DR Congo for 60 days back in 2005 but have remained in jail ever since ­ until defence lawyers in the ICC trial against alleged Congolese warlord Germain Katanga requested they be brought to The Netherlands to give evidence in 2011. Their testimony accuses current President Joseph Kabila of being responsible for an attack whichkilledUNpeacekeeprsinFebruary 2003. Because of this, they claim, if they are returned to prison in the DRC, they will face persecution, human rights abuses, and possible execution. They applied for asylum in The Netherlands on May 12, 2011. Lawyers representing the four men argue that the Dutch Immigration Department has deliberately bent or circumvented the rules since this application was made, treating the men entirely differently to other asylum seekers. "It's absolutely bizarre ­ from the beginning they said they would follow the directions and decisions of the ICC.

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