By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
PARIS, France – Bringing sixteen years of impunity to an end, Rwandan war criminal Callixte Mbarushimana was arrested last week in Paris and has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Alleged to have directed more than ten thousand rapes in Kivu in 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors are seeking to add rape to the list of charges.
His arrest came after the ICC issued a sealed arrest warrant in late September and with the help of French authorities. He faces five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, torture, rape, inhumane acts and persecution) and six counts of war crimes (attacks against the civilian population, destruction of property, murder, torture, rape and inhumane treatment).
Mbarushimana, 47, was a key player in the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and had been living in Paris as the leader-in-exile of the Rwandan Hutu rebel group.
His arrest followed the arrests of FDLR president Ignace Murwanashyaka and his deputy Straton Musoni late last year in Germany. Both are detained and awaiting trial.
The FDLR was established by former guerrillas accused of genocide in the 1994 ethnic slaughter in Rwanda. The group moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and initiated attacks on Rwanda aimed at ousting the government.
Along with the Mai-Mai militia, the FDLR was responsible for the wave of mass rapes that took place in the Walikale region of DRC in late July and early August. A prominent leader of the Mai-Mai militia group was arrested earlier this month for his role in those rapes.
“The arrest of Callixte Mbarushimana sends a strong signal to abusive commanders in Congo and elsewhere that the ICC is at work investigating their crimes and that they will not go unpunished,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, in an e-mail to Bloomberg News.
In August, Mbarushimana issued a statement from Paris, where he has been living openly despite being on a United Nations sanctions list, denying that the FDLR was involved in the commission of the wave of mass rapes.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that one of Mbarushimana’s roles was to “cover up the crimes.”
No date has been set for Mbarushimana to be transferred to The Hague. But his arrest is a significant step.
Moreno-Ocampo called the arrest “a crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes” that have taken place in the DRC, where more than fifteen thousand cases of sexual violence were reported in 2009 alone.
For more information, please see:
Radio Netherlands – End of the FDLR in Europe? – 20 October 2010
AFP – Rwandan war crimes suspect may face Congo rape counts – 19 October 2010
Independent – Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana is charged – 12 October 2010
World Affairs Blog Network – A Win Against Impunity: Callixte Mbarushimana Arrested in Paris – 12 October 2010
Bloomberg – Congo War Crime Suspect Callixte Mbarushimana Arrested in Paris, ICC Says – 11 October 2010