Posted by: africanpressorganization | 12 October 2010

ICC / France Arrests Rwandan Rebel for Congo Crimes / First ICC arrest warrant for crimes committed in the Kivu region of eastern Congo

 


 

 

 

ICC / France Arrests Rwandan Rebel for Congo Crimes / First ICC arrest warrant for crimes committed in the Kivu region of eastern Congo

 

 

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, October 12, 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Today’s arrest in France of a Rwandan rebel leader for serious crimes in the Kivus region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009, sends a strong signal to other abusive commanders that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be persistent in its apprehension of suspects, Human Rights Watch said today. French police arrested Callixte Mbarushimana on the morning of October 11, 2010 in Paris, where he has resided since 2003.

 

Callixte Mbarushimana is the executive secretary of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda, FDLR), a predominately Rwandan Hutu armed group that has been operating in eastern Congo since 1994. He is wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity (murder, torture, rape and inhumane acts) and war crimes (attacks against the civilian population, destruction of property, murder, torture, rape, inhuman treatment and persecution) allegedly committed in 2009 during the armed conflict in the Kivus region of the DRC.

 

“Civilians in eastern Congo have endured terrible suffering from various armed groups for many years,” said Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The arrest of Callixte Mbarushimana sends a powerful message that those responsible for horrific crimes will face justice no matter where they try to hide.”

 

In 2009, FDLR troops conducted widespread and vicious attacks against civilians following the launch of military operations against them by the Congolese army with the backing of United Nations peacekeepers. Human Rights Watch documented numerous deliberate killings of civilians, including many women, children and the elderly, by the FDLR, who killed their victims with machetes and hoes. FDLR combatants pillaged and burned homes, sometimes with their victims locked inside. The killing of civilians was invariably accompanied by rape. According to UN investigation reports, FDLR troops are suspected of having been involved in the mass rape of 300 civilians in early August 2010 in the Walikale region of North Kivu.

 

In addition to Mbarushimana, other FDLR leaders operating in eastern Congo have also been implicated in brutal crimes against civilians. Human Rights Watch urged the ICC to also investigate General Sylvester Mudacumura, among others, for his direct or command responsibility in the commission of widespread abuses against civilians.

 

Other armed groups have also committed grave crimes under international humanitarian law in the Kivus region since July 2002, the date as on which the ICC has jurisdiction in Congo. These include the former rebel group the National Congress for the Defense of the People (Congrès national pour la défense du peuple, CNDP), the Mai Mai militias and the Congolese army.

 

“Many forces in eastern Congo have committed grave crimes against civilians, making it crucial for the ICC prosecutor to promptly investigate and bring charges, as appropriate, against leaders of other parties to the conflict,” said Mattioli-Zeltner. “Leaders of the Congolese and Rwandan armies along with rebel commanders need to hear the message that the days of impunity are winding down.”

 

Mbarushimana’s arrest by the French authorities highlights the crucial importance of state cooperation to enable the ICC to fulfill its mission. The ICC does not have its own police force and relies on states to carry out its arrest warrants. ICC arrest warrants are still outstanding against leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a group that continues to attack civilians in three countries in Central Africa, and against three Sudanese nationals, including the sitting president, Omar al-Bashir, for grave international crimes in Darfur.

 

In eastern Congo, Bosco Ntaganda, currently a general in the Congolese army and wanted by the ICC on charges of the war crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in Ituri in 2002-2003, is also still at large. Last week, the Congolese Minister of Justice and Human Rights publicly restated that Congolese authorities would not arrest Ntaganda because he is needed to preserve peace and stability in the eastern Congo. National human rights groups have strongly objected to this policy.

 

“The sad history of repetitive cycles of violence and atrocities against civilians in eastern Congo is testament that impunity is never a guarantee of peace,” said Mattioli-Zeltner. “The arrest of rebel leaders is a positive step, but others involved in grave crimes, including Bosco Ntaganda and those linked to the government, should also be brought to the dock.’

 

Callixte Mbarushimana moved into the leadership role of the FDLR armed group following the arrest of its president, Ignace Murwanashyaka and his deputy, Straton Musoni, in Germany on November 17, 2009 on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and bearing command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against community committed by the FDLR troops in eastern Congo. The investigation in Germany is progressing and the German federal prosecutor is expected to issue a charging document by the end of 2010.

 

Callixte Mbarushimina has lived in France since 2003 and assumed his functions as FDLR executive secretary from there. Unlike Germany, until July this year, French courts did not have jurisdiction over Mbarushimana for the crimes he is accused of having committed in eastern Congo.

 

However, France had jurisdiction over Mbarushimana’s alleged involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, including in the killings of Rwandan staff at the UN Development Program office in Kigali. Despite an official request by the UN in 2005 to investigate allegations against him and a complaint filed by victims in 2006, no legal action was taken in France against him.

 

“Mbarushimana’s ability to live in France without fear of arrest is a strong reminder of the importance of having good laws on “universal jurisdiction,” which enable states to prosecute grave international crimes, even when committed abroad and by a foreigner,” Human Rights Watch said. States that are truly committed to ending impunity should make sure they do not provide safe havens for alleged war criminals.

 

 

Background

 

The eastern Congo provinces of North and South Kivu have endured deadly and destructive armed conflicts over the past two decades. As documented by the recently published UN “mapping report,” which investigated crimes committed in Congo between 1993 and 2003, conflicts in the Kivus region have always involved widespread abuses against civilians.

 

The ongoing conflict in eastern Congo is linked to the after-effects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Alliances have repeatedly shifted between the various belligerents.

 

Two armed rebel groups have dominated events in the Kivus region over the past few years: the Congolese Tutsi-led National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) – a Rwanda-supported rebel group, integrated into the Congolese army in early 2009 following the removal of its leader, Laurent Nkunda, and the Rwandan Hutu militia called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

 

The FDLR are a predominately Rwandan Hutu armed group that uses military force to seek political change and greater representation for Hutu in Rwanda. Some of the FDLR leaders are believed to have participated in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The Congolese government has repeatedly turned to the FDLR (and its predecessor movements) for support in its fight against Congolese rebel groups backed by Rwanda or against the Rwandan army. Recently, in exchange of the Rwandan government’s help in removing CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda, the Congolese government has engaged in joint operations (with the Rwandan army, and the UN peacekeeping force in Congo) against the FDLR.

 

Fighting has been characterized by attacks carried out by all parties to the conflict against civilians. Human Rights Watch has documented the deliberate killings of more than 1,400 civilians between January and September 2009 alone. Over the same nine months, over 7,500 cases of sexual violence against women and girls were registered at health centers across North and South Kivu, nearly double the reported numbers in 2008, and likely only representing a fraction of the total.

 

In April 2004, the transitional Congolese government referred crimes committed in the country to the ICC. On June 23, 2004, the ICC prosecutor announced the beginning of the court’s investigations in the DRC.

 

Since then, the ICC has issued arrest warrants against four rebel leaders from the Ituri District: Thomas Lubanga and Bosco Ntaganda of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and Germain Katanga, former commander of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) and Mathieu Ngudjolo, former leader of the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI).

 

All but Bosco Ntaganda are currently on trial at the ICC.

 

To read the December 2009 Human Rights Watch report, “You Will Be Punished: Attacks on Civilians in Eastern Congo,” please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2009/12/14/you-will-be-punished-0

 

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Congo, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/africa/democratic-republic-congo

 

To read the Human Rights Watch report, “Courting History: The Landmark International Criminal Court’s First Years,” please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/07/10/courting-history

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the ICC, please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/category/topic/international-justice/international-criminal-court

 

SOURCE 

Human Right Watch (HRW)


Categories

%d bloggers like this: