UN welcomes Rwandan war crimes suspect's arrest

11th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A top UN official welcomed the arrest on Monday of Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"This is a very important signal to all perpetrators in the DRC that crimes of sexual violence are not tolerated and that the international community is fully committed to bringing these individuals to justice," said Margot Wallstrom, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

"We hope to finally see the beginning of the end of impunity for crimes of sexual violence in the DRC."

She also urged officials to "engage all the resources at our disposal" to arrest others involved in orchestrating mass rapes that took place in Walikale territory, in the eastern province of North Kivu.

French authorities earlier arrested Mbarushimana, 47, acting on a warrant issued in September by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The ICC said Mbarushimana faces five charges of crimes against humanity and six war crimes charges for murders, rapes, torture and destruction of property in eastern DR Congo in 2009.

He was arrested in Paris, where he has lived as a leader-in-exile of the Rwandan Hutu rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), having received refugee status in France in 2003, it added.

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

They said there were reasonable grounds to believe Mbarushimana "personally and intentionally contributed" to plotting "widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population in order to create a humanitarian catastrophe" which could be exploited for political gain.

Some Hutu rebels who are members of the FDLR are accused of having participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which witnessed the killings of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Wallstrom expressed her appreciation to French authorities for their "swift and active cooperation" with the ICC in the case.

© 2010 AFP

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