Ignace Murwanashyaka, leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and his deputy Straton Musoni were arrested in southern Germany in November 2009.
The FDLR was created by perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, who fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after being routed and driven out by forces led by current President Paul Kagame.
German federal prosecutors said the two coordinated between January 2008 and July 2009 FDLR attacks in eastern DRC that saw hundreds of civilians killed, large numbers of women raped and villages looted.
At the time of their arrest, the rebel group said that the two were “in no way involved in the atrocities committed against civilians in eastern DRC,” calling their detention “unfair and unjustified.”
The group is considered a key source of insecurity in Africa’s Great Lakes region. Murwanashyaka was among 15 people whose assets were frozen by the UN
Security Council in 2005 on suspicion of involvement in war crimes.
Kagame has criticised Western countries in the past for not doing enough to bring FDLR leaders living there to justice.
On November 3, a French court agreed to send Callixte Mbarushimana, another FDLR leader, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face charges that he masterminded war crimes from his hideaway in France.
Mbarushimana denies the charges, and his lawyers claimed the ICC warrant could be a first step towards sending him back to Rwanda, where they argue he would not get a fair trial from a government led by his former foes.
The Paris appeals court ruled in favour of a warrant issued by the ICC on the condition that “under no circumstances” should Mbarushimana be taken back by any means to his home country, however.
It was unclear if and when a trial of Murwanashyaka and Musoni would take place.
A French judge has meanwhile placed Rwanda’s defence minister and five other aides of Kagame under investigation in a probe into an attack seen as sparking the genocide, legal sources said Thursday.
Placing the six under investigation means that international arrests warrants issued for them – which led to Rwanda cutting off diplomatic relations with France in 2006 – can be dropped.
An estimated 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed in the Rwandan genocide.