Arusha, October 12, 2010 (FH) - Rwanda has welcomed Monday's arrest in France of Hutu force leader Callixte Mbarushimana, 47, on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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Mbarushimana is executive secretary of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is the first Rwandan to be arrested under an arrest warrant from the ICC.

"We welcome this development," Rwandan Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga said in an interview with Hirondelle News Agency. "The FDLR are a genocidal organization and it is an international obligation to hunt them down wherever they are. It is not enough to send troops to track down their fighters while their leaders are still circulating freely."

United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are assisting the Congolese army in tracking down FDLR rebels in the east of the country.   

Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama also welcomed the arrest. He was quoted by the Rwandan pro-government newspaper New Times as saying that he hoped the ICC would step up its efforts and make more such arrests.

Rwandan authorities had also issued an international arrest warrant for Mbarushimana, accusing him of participation in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Mbarushimana's arrest was announced Monday by the French authorities and the ICC. The ICC said its judges issued an arrest warrant under seal on September 28, 2010 and asked the French authorities on September 30 to cooperate in the arrest of the suspect. Mbarushimana will remain in the custody of the French authorities "pending their full consideration of this request unless the Chambre d'instruction decides otherwise", according to an ICC press release.

Mbarushimana is charged with 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).

These crimes were allegedly committed as part of armed conflict in 2009 between the FDLR and forces of the Congolese army (FARDC), sometimes together with Rwandan forces and "at times in conjunction with the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo," according to the ICC press release.

This arrest follows two other arrests of FDLR leaders in Germany, including FDLR chairman Ignace Murwanashyaka on November 17, 2009, under an arrest warrant from the German Federal Court of Justice.

The FDLR is considered one of the main sources of ongoing insecurity in the Great Lakes region of Africa.


© Hirondelle News Agency