25 January 2011 Callixte Mbarushimana, a Rwandan rebel leader accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was surrendered and transferred today to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move welcomed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Mr. Mbarushimana is the Executive Secretary of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the most recent incarnation of Rwandan rebel groups established by Rwandan Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and Hutu moderates in Rwanda.
Arrested in France last October, the rebel leader is alleged to be criminally responsible for 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu, including murder, torture, rape, attacks against civilians, destruction of property, inhuman treatment and persecution.
His arrest was the result of almost two years of investigations by France, Germany, DRC, Rwanda and the ICC, into the activities of the FDLR.
“It’s a crucial day,” ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told a news conference in New York, noting the impact of this latest development on DRC, and particularly on the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, where the FDLR were involved in “horrific crimes.”
Mr. Ban welcomed today’s surrender of Mr. Mbarushimana to the ICC in The Hague by French judicial authorities, as well as the steps taken by the German judiciary to prosecute and try the President and Vice-President of the FDLR, who are also accused of having committed serious international crimes.
“This cooperative burden-sharing in prosecuting individuals for serious international crimes will greatly advance the fight against impunity,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
“Legal action against FDLR leaders also reinforces efforts to demobilize and repatriate FDLR fighters, which would significantly contribute to stabilizing the eastern DRC,” the statement added.
Mr. Mbarushimana’s case is the fourth on atrocities in the DRC before the ICC, the world’s first permanent court set up to try people accused of the most serious international offences, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We hope this will send a clear signal to the FDLR members that they have to stop,” said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, adding that the case against Mr. Mbarushimana is not the last against the rebel group. “We are planning to present new cases against other leaders of the FDLR in the Kivus.”
Also welcoming today’s transfer was Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, who has repeatedly stressed the need to bring the perpetrators of rape in eastern DRC to justice.
“This is a very important signal to all perpetrators in the DRC and beyond, that crimes of sexual violence are not tolerated and that the international community is fully committed to bringing alleged offenders to justice,” she said in a statement.
“We now need to use all the resources at our disposal to apprehend every individual and commander allegedly involved in orchestrating the mass rapes which occurred in Walikale, Fizi and elsewhere in eastern DRC,” she added.
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