An international tribunal Tuesday acquitted a former militia leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo of war crimes.
The International Criminal Court ruled that charges against Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui for the 2003 massacre of 200 residents of a village in the country’s northwestern Ituri region could not be supported with sufficient evidence.
Ngudjolo had maintained that he did not order the attack carried out by members of his militia group and only learned of it after the fact.
The ICC made a point to clarify that its ruling did not mean that it did not believe the massacre took place, nor did it necessarily believe that Ngudjolo was not culpable in any way.
"The chamber also emphasized that the fact of deciding that an accused is not guilty does not necessarily mean that the chamber finds him innocent," the ICC said in a statement, the BBC reported.
"Such a decision simply demonstrates that, given the standard of proof, the evidence presented to support his guilt has not allowed the chamber to form a conviction 'beyond reasonable doubt'."
Human Rights Watch criticized the ruling, saying it failed to bring justice for the victims.
“The acquittal of Ngudjolo leaves the victims of Bogoro and other massacres by his forces without justice for their suffering,” said Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
“The ICC prosecutor needs to strengthen its investigations of those responsible for grave crimes in Ituri, including high-ranking officials in Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda who supported the armed groups fighting there.”
Ngudjolo was the former chief of staff of the Front for National Integration, an armed group that was engaged in a regional conflict between 1999 and 2005 over land, resources and longstanding ethnic `tensions, following the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.