Congo files new complaint to ICC against Rwanda's military and M23 rebels

FILE PHOTO: Rebel attacks deepen displacement crisis in Congo's Ituri

KINSHASA (Reuters) - 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 Congo by the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and the M23 rebel group.

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

"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," Congo'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 Tutsi-led M23 rebel group launched a fresh offensive in eastern Congo 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.

Congo has accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23. The government of Rwanda has denied any involvement.

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.

To date the ICC has convicted three different Congolese 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 Congo's provinces affected by rebel groups from May 28 to May 31.

(Reporting by Ange Kasongo in Kinshasa and Stephanie Van Den Berg in the Hague; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Matthew Lewis)