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France arrests Rwandan rebel chief over Congo war crimes

Latest update : 11/10/2010

Article text by NEWS WIRES

French authorities have arrested Rwandan rebel chief Callixte Mbarushimana, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court under charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

AFP - Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, wanted for warcrimes and crimes against humanity in Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested in Paris on Monday, the International Criminal Court said.

"In accordance with the warrant of arrest issued under seals by the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 28 September, 2010, the French authorities arrested Mr Callixte Mbarushimana, suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Kivus, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)," the court said in a statement.

Mbarushimana, 47, faces five charges of crimes against humanity and six war crimes charges for murders, rapes, torture and destruction of property, said the ICC.

The crimes were allegedly committed during a series of "widespread and systematic attacks" by FDLR fighters against civilians in DR Congo's Nord Kivu and Sud Kivu provinces in 2009, according to ICC prosecutors.

Mbarushimana has lived in France as a leader-in-exile of the Rwandan Hutu rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), receiving refugee status in 2003.

ICC prosecutors said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Mbarushimana "personally and intentionally contributed" to plotting "widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population in order to create a humanitarian catastrophe" that it could then exploit in an international media campaign to gain political concessions.

The Kinshasa government welcomed Mbarushimana's arrest.

"It's good news for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the whole Great Lakes region as Mbarushimana led from Europe the FDLR's armed bands which spread death and destruction in our country and threatened security in their own country" Rwanda, government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP.

The FDLR traces its roots to Rwandan army and Hutu Interahamwe extremist militia members who fled to DR Congo (then Zaire) when Tutsis took power in Kigali in July 1994 following the genocide in Rwanda.

In Nord Kivu, they created the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (Alir) and launched murderous attacks in 1997-98 into northwest Rwanda, to which Kigali responded violently.

In Mayt 2000 Alir became the FDLR, a political-military movement whose bid to topple the Kigali regime in 2001 was a resounding failure.

At the end of 2008, the FDLR battled alongside the DR Congo army to defeat a rebellion led by former general Laurent Nkunda.

But on January 20, 2009, Kigali and Kinshasa launched a joint military operation against the FDLR. Rwandan troops pulled back but the DR Congo army continued to pursue the FDLR with support from the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUC).

The campaign drove the FDLR back into the forests, with more than 1,300 of its fighters captured and sent back to Rwanda, but the group was blamed for carrying out during that time numerous atrocities against civilians including killings, rape, burnings and looting.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the FDLR committed at least 630 murders of civilians between January and September 2009.


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