afrol News, 11 October - Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, wanted internationally for war crimes and mass rapes in eastern Congo Kinshasa (DRC), was arrested in France today. He will be among the first to stand trial on these crimes in the DRC.
Mr Mbarushimana, who has been accused of war crimes by the Rwandan government for years but still been able to move around in Europe freely, only was arrested after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest.
The Rwandan leads the Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which Rwandan authorities accuse of having taken part in the 1994 genocide. In the DRC, the rebel group is accused of massive crimes against civilians in the Kivu provinces.
The Congolese government has asked for Mr Mbarushimana's arrest since 2004, while the Rwandans have sought his detention even longer. Despite these calls, the rebel leader was released after a short dentition by German authorities in 2008. Since that, he has lived in Paris in tranquillity, when not participating in fighting in eastern Congo.
Mr Mbarushimana now is the first senior leader arrested by the ICC for massive crimes in eastern Congo. He is accused of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, torture, rape, attacks against civilians, destruction of property, inhuman treatment and persecution.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo thanked France for finally detaining the suspected war criminal, describing the arrest as a "crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC," where over 15,000 cases of sexual violence were reported in 2009 alone.
"We are grateful to the French authorities for executing the arrest warrant and we are thankful for the excellent cooperation of the many parties involved in the investigation, including France, Germany, the DRC and Rwanda. This is a clear example of positive complementarity in action," he said.
As late as this August, Mr Mbarushimana's FDLR rebels were involved in the commission of more than 300 rapes in North Kivu province, yet he blatantly continued to refute any allegation against his movement, the ICC said in a news release.
Since 2007, the 47-year-old Rwandan has been Executive Secretary of the FDLR, and allegedly committed the crimes in both North and South Kivu in conflicts with Congolese and Rwandan armies, at a time when the Congolese forces were sometimes operating in conjunction with the UN mission there.
"In 2009, the FDLR leadership decided to attack civilians in the North and South Kivu provinces 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," according to the ICC,
Mr Moreno-Ocampo said the arrest could be an opportunity to finally demobilise the rebel group led by those responsible for the genocide. "Their leaders are gone. This is a good day for the victims. This is a good day for justice," he added.
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