|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Chief Prosecutor on France’s Extradition
of Rebel Leader to International Criminal Court
French judicial authorities had agreed to surrender rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana to face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, ending years of attempts to apprehend him for alleged participation in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Court’s Chief Prosecutor, said at a Headquarters press conference.
“It’s a crucial day,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said at the 25 January press conference, underscoring the importance of Mr. Mbarushimana’s extradition for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, where his Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) had committed “horrific crimes”.
Mr. Mbarushimana, Executive Secretary of the FDLR, was arrested last October in France, where he had been fighting legal battles to avoid extradition following his indictment for crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said thousands of FDLR fighters remained in the Kivus, some of whom were demobilizing themselves. “We hope this will send a clear signal to the FDLR members that they have to stop,” he added, noting that he planned to present new cases against other FDLR leaders living in North and South Kivu.
Turning to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, the Prosecutor said he was collecting information as part of a “preliminary examination” to determine whether crimes committed in that country fell under the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. “I’m working to collect information to see if I have to request authorization to the judges to initiate an investigation,” he added, emphasizing that he was not part of any political negotiations.
Responding to questions, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he had met with the Permanent Representative of Côte d’Ivoire to the United Nations and that Human Rights Watch had informed him that it would present a comprehensive report on the matter. He said people close to [former President] Laurent Gbagbo had been in touch last week, offering information. “We are trying to collect as much information as we can in an impartial way to define what the Court should do,” he said, adding that the only way to speed that process up would be for a State party to refer the case to the Court.
In response to a query on Sudan, he said he had no jurisdiction in Southern Sudan and could offer no opinion on the situation there. The Court had issued an arrest warrant against President Omer al-Bashir on 10 criminal charges — five for crimes against humanity, two for war crimes and three for genocide. Two of the genocide charges related to rape, which, according to the judges, was an ongoing crime, and to serious “mental or bodily harm”, which they said had been seen in the form of fear in various refugee camps.
The Prosecutor said the investigation into President Bashir’s assets was part of his mandate. “Following the money is a way to understand who is responsible for crimes,” he clarified, adding that, in accordance with the Rome Statute, victims could request compensation, another reason that his mandate included a duty to investigate finances. Several sources had confirmed that President Bashir held accounts in foreign countries in amounts varying from $100 million and upwards, derived mainly from oil.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he had requested States parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as well as non-parties, to cooperate in the investigation. “In the world today, you cannot be a criminal and a Head of State, so it’s a matter of time that President Bashir faces justice,” he added. “The Court is permanent. The Court can wait. The victims in Darfur cannot wait,” he said, adding that they should not be ignored.
Asked to comment on the decision to allow Ahmed Haroun to use United Nations helicopters in South Sudan, he said he had held conversations about that decision with United Nations officials. There was a standard that the Organization applied to determine whether it must restrict its relations with certain individuals and it was assessing whether that standard applied to the current situation, he said.
Pressed further, he said Mr. Haroun was a fugitive from the Court and should be arrested and put in jail. He had been charged with 15 counts of crimes against humanity. “I think it’s very dangerous to allow this person to have any role, and I said that very clearly, in the Security Council.”
Asked for an update on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo responded that he had requested information from that country’s Government, and was working to determine whether two incidents the Court was investigating constituted war crimes. The law was clear that when there was a policy to commit such crimes, then the Court had jurisdiction. Specifically, he had sent a letter explaining the Court’s intention and offering an opportunity to provide information, but had not yet received a response.
Concerning progress in the central Nigerian city of Jos, and the crisis in Delta State, he said the Court was preparing reports to be issued in the next six months that would outline the incidents it was examining in that country. “We are trying to be predictable in this area,” he said, explaining that national authorities always had primacy and could conduct an investigation themselves. “We have a good cooperation with Nigeria,” he said, citing a case related to Nigerian soldiers killed in Darfur.
Asked about external interference in the internal affairs of Colombia, he said crimes committed by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), other guerrilla groups, paramilitaries or members of the national army, all fell under the Court’s jurisdiction. Colombia was conducting national proceedings and the country’s new President had proactively engaged the Court and all States parties. “The Court is like the face of the system, but its strength relies on the commitment of the States,” he emphasized, noting that, in that sense, Colombia was creating a new dynamic among States parties.
Regarding recent events in Tunisia, he said the country was not a State party to the Rome Statute and he therefore had no jurisdiction there. He could only address that situation if the Security Council referred a case to him, or if the Tunisian authorities became a member of the Court or accepted its jurisdiction.
Asked whether he had too much power or too little, he said his job was to do justice for the victims of the world’s worst atrocities when no one cared for them. “I think it is a privilege to have this mandate.”
* *** *For information media • not an official record