A tribunal charged Callixte Mbarushimana with 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder and rape.
Rwandan accused of war crimes arrested
THE HAGUE — A Rwandan rebel accused of orchestrating a humanitarian catastrophe against Congolese villagers in a scheme to leverage more political power for his group in Rwanda was arrested in Paris yesterday, the International Criminal Court said.
Callixte Mbarushimana, a leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, was taken into custody on a secret warrant issued two weeks ago by the Hague-based tribunal.
Alain Gauthier, who heads an advocacy group for Rwandan genocide survivors, praised the arrest but said Mbarushimana also should be tried for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The court said he was charged with 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, persecution based on gender, and extensive destruction of property committed by the FDLR in 2009.
According to court papers, Mbarushimana and other FDLR leaders are accused of “having used violence against civilians as their main bargaining tool’’ in an international campaign to extort from Rwanda and the international community political power for the FDLR.
In a statement summarizing allegations against Mbarushimana, the court said the rebels deliberately sparked “a massive humanitarian catastrophe’’ then offered to end the atrocities in exchange for political power.
“As a result of this deadly blackmail, victims were killed, raped, and forcibly displaced, and entire villages were razed to the ground,’’ the court alleged.
No date has been set for Mbarushimana to be transferred from Paris to The Hague.
The French Foreign Ministry said the arrest “shows France’s constant will to fight impunity.’’
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, government spokesman Lambert Mende also welcomed the arrest. “It’s a good, good thing considering the multiple crimes committed by the FDLR, which Mbarushimana managed from abroad,’’ he said. “His Congolese victims demand justice for the crimes committed in their country.’’
The FDLR was established by former guerrillas accused of genocide in Rwanda’s 1994 ethnic slaughter. After moving to Congo, the FDLR launched attacks on Rwanda aimed at ousting the government.
Tharcisse Karugarama, Rwanda’s justice minister called the arrest long overdue.
“For us, we think anybody arresting anyone for such crimes is a positive development and as the government of Rwanda we welcome that,’’ he said. “We want to congratulate the ICC for having taken that bold initiative.’’
Until his arrest, Mbarushimana, 47, had lived openly in a Paris suburb even though he was on a UN sanctions list. He is executive secretary of the FDLR, which is accused of killing at least 700 civilians last year. He is also on Interpol’s wanted list for genocide in his native Rwanda.
The court’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, called the arrest a “crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes’’ committed in Congo, where more than 15,000 cases of sexual violence were reported last year.