Acquitted, But Not Free

Life After a War Crimes Trial

The International Criminal Court, where Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was tried for crimes against humanity during his command of the National Integrationist Front. Roman Boed / Flickr

Four days before Christmas, the guards brought Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui his suitcase. It was time for him to leave. A few days earlier, he had been acquitted of three counts of crimes against humanity and seven counts of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). After 1,779 days in detention—almost five years in total—Ngudjolo was discharged from the court’s detention center in The Hague.

Ngudjolo is a former member of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Nationalist and Integrationist Front militia and was accused of murder, sexual slavery, and rape. In the early hours of February 24, 2003, a group of armed men invaded the village of Bogoro in eastern Congo while its residents slept. The men burned people alive, threw babies against walls, and took women as sex slaves. By the end of the afternoon, 200 people were dead. According to the ICC prosecutors, Ngudjolo commanded the attack.

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