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DRC Files in ICC Against Rwanda, M23

FILE: The exterior view of the International Criminal Court are pictured in The Hague, Netherlands, on Wed. March 31, 2021. T

KINSHASA - The Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday made another formal referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure the court will focus on what it calls the systematic pillaging of its natural resources in eastern DRC by the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) and the M23 rebel group.

"The government of the DRC remains deeply concerned about the suffering of the populations in the part of its territory affected by the acts referred to in this case," DRC's Justice Ministry said in a statement.

The referral's goal would be to investigate and prosecute any person involved in human rights violations between 2022 and 2023, it added.

The ICC already has, since 2004, an ongoing investigation into eastern DRC, and it is not clear if the new referral would shift the court's focus.

The ICC office of the prosecutor has given no details other than that the focus is on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since July 2002 in the Ituri region and the North and South Kivu provinces.

The Tutsi-led M23 rebel group launched a fresh offensive in eastern DRC in March last year, seizing towns and villages in the area that borders with Uganda. The fighting forced more than 1 million people to flee.

DRC accuses neighboring Rwanda of backing the M23, which Kigali has denied.

To date the ICC has convicted three different DRC militia leaders: one of war crimes, the others of war crimes - and crimes against humanity - for their roles in atrocities committed in the eastern DRC.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is expected to visit Kinshasa and DRC's provinces affected by rebel groups from May 28 to May 31.