France authorities arrest DRC war crimes suspect under ICC warrant

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[JURIST] French authorities have arrested alleged Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader Callixte Mbarushimana under a warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], the ICC announced [press release] Monday. The court charged Mbarushimana, a former UN employee, with five counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes for acts committed by the FDLR in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in 2009. Specific accusations include, among other things, murder, torture, rape and attacks against civilians. The ICC stated that evidence supported the idea that Mbarushimana, in his role as Executive Secretary of the FDLR, “has personally and intentionally contributed to a common plan of conducting attacks against the civilian population in order to create a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ and to launch an international campaign to extort concessions of political power for the FDLR.” The ICC Office of the Prosecutor alleged [press release]:

In 2009, the FDLR leadership decided to attack civilians in the North and South Kivu provinces [of the DRC] in order to create a massive humanitarian catastrophe; the FDLR then tried to blackmail the international community and to extort concessions of political power, in exchange for ending the atrocities. As a result of this deadly blackmail, victims were killed, raped, and forcibly displaced, and entire villages were razed to the ground.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo [official profile] called the arrest “an opportunity to finally demobilize the group led by the former genocidaires” who fled to the DRC after the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive].

Last week, UN peacekeepers and DRC forces arrested [JURIST report] rebel group Mai Mai Cheka [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader Lieutenant Colonel Sadoke Kokunda Mayele for allegedly leading mass rapes [JURIST news archive], along with the FDLR and other rebel groups, in the DRC in late July and early August. Earlier this month, the UN released a report on war crimes [text, PDF; JURIST report] and human rights abuses in the DRC. The report, originally expected to be released in September [JURIST report], lists 617 of the most serious violations of human rights, including violence against children, genocide and mass rape, committed between 1993 and 2003. Last month, the UN Security Council [official website] issued a statement condemning the recent mass rapes [text; JURIST report] and calling for justice for the victims. Also last month, the UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict called for perpetrators of mass rapes, including heads of DRC militias, to face war crimes charges [JURIST report]. In 2008, Mbarushimana was arrested by German border police [JURIST report] as he attempted to travel to Russia on charges that he killed 32 people during the Rwandan genocide. In 2005, the UN asked France to bring genocide charges [JURIST report] against Mbarushimana, who was then in the country under refugee status. Carla Del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website], refused to charge him and said the ICTR did not file an indictment against Mbarushimana because it lacked sufficient evidence against him.

Read more detail on JURIST – Paper Chase

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