The Hague, November 21, 2012 (FH) – The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said  Wednesday that her office is examining alleged crimes committed by M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and urged states to arrest rebel leaders indicted by the Court.

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“The Office of the Prosecutor is examining (…) allegations of ICC crimes by members and leaders of M23, and by other parties taking advantage of the chaos in the region,” Fatou Bensouda said.

Her statement came a day after the M23 captured the town of Goma, provincial capital of North Kivu province. Bensouda warned that recent events “risk bringing violence to a higher level” in the troubled region.  

The M23 rebels are led by defectors from the Congolese army including Bosco Ntaganda, for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant in 2006. It has also issued an arrest warrant for Sylvestre Mudacumura, commander of the FDLR rebel movement which is fighting the Rwandan government.

“Bosco and Mudacumura must be arrested now,” said the Prosecutor. “Both of these men have been actively involved in the years of violence and crimes which continue to plague innocent victims in Eastern DRC.”

She said civilians were continuing to pay the price for the violence. “Until Bosco Ntaganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura are arrested and brought to justice, they will continue to be major drivers of instability throughout the entire Great Lakes region and one of the biggest threats for civilian populations. States and non-state actors should make arresting Bosco and Mudacumura a top priority.”

Rwanda and Uganda are accused by the UN and by the DRC of supporting the M23 rebels, which they strongly deny. Following the fall of Goma on November 20, Kigali called on Kinshasa to negotiate with the rebels. Meanwhile, M23 military spokesman Vianney Kazamara threatened a march on Kinshasa, saying that “Mr Kabila must step down”.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila met Wednesday in Kampala with presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. The three men called on the M23 to withdraw from Goma. According to a statement, Museveni and Kagame said that even if the M23 had legitimate demands, they could not accept extension of the war, nor the idea of overthrowing the legitimate government of the DRC.