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ICC asked to prosecute longtime president of Rwanda for war crimes

Opponents of Rwanda's long-time President Paul Kagame asked the International Criminal Court Friday to pursue him over war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year.

A spokeswoman for the ICC prosecutor's office confirmed it had received a request to prosecute Mr. Kagame but stressed the court handled "hundreds" of similar communications a year with equal treatment.

In June UN experts in a report accused Mr. Kagame of supporting with arms and ammunition rebels of the March 23 (M23) movement, which is fighting government troops in the DR Congo. The government in Kigali has denied the charge.

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M23 has been fighting the Congolese army since April after a mutiny was spurred by Tutsi army general Bosco Ntaganda, nicknamed "The Terminator", against whom the ICC issued a fresh arrest warrant last month.

"We are asking the prosecutor to indict Paul Kagame," said Nkiko Nsengimana, a coordinator of Rwanda's United Democratic Forces (FDU) party.

The FDU is the party of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire and is not recognised by Kigali.

Close to 100 protesters gathered outside the ICC's heavily-fortified building in The Hague where they chanted slogans such as "Kagame, assassin!" and "Kagame under arrest".

"The M23 is simply a Rwandan army," Mr. Nsengimana added, calling Mr. Kagame "its supreme leader".

Lawyer Christopher Black said the request to prosecute Kagame for war crimes committed since March was filed on behalf of the FDU and a second opposition group, the Rwandan National Congress.

Black said charges against President Kagame should include M23's alleged use of child soldiers.

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Meanwhile, Kinshasa this month also claimed Rwanda was backing the rebels and added it would refuse to negotiate with the M23, who are drawn from an earlier rebel movement integrated into the Congolese army in 2009. The rebels claim Kinshasa failed to honour the 2009 peace deal.

Spokeswoman for Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's office Florence Olara acknowledged receipt of the request Friday, saying "we will analyse the information received as we do with all... communications to the Prosecutor."

But she added: "We receive hundreds of such communications every year from all types of sources relating to the situations we investigate as well as others and we treat all of them equally."

The ICC is the world's first permanent tribunal, set up in 2002 to deal with the most serious crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It has issued several arrest warrants relating to the conflict in the eastern DR Congo, including against militia leader Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced to 14 years in jail on July 10 for using child soldiers in his rebel army. Mr. Ntaganda however, remained at large.

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