Rwandan rebel leader in war crimes court hearing
Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana will face the world's war crimes court Friday over charges that he plotted the murder, rape and killing of Congolese civilians in 2009.
Prosecutors will try to convince International Criminal Court (ICC) judges that they have enough evidence to proceed to trial against the 48-year-old Mbarushimana for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
At the same time, lawyers for the man identified as the executive secretary of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebel group will be given a chance to refute the charges in a hearing set to last four days.
ICC prosecutors have levelled eight counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity against the former UN computer technician. The crimes were allegedly committed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's restive provinces of Nord Kivu and Sud Kivu in 2009.
Rwandan-born Mbarushimana, together with senior FDLR leaders Ignace Murwanashyaka and Sylvestre Mudacumbura are named in plotting a "human catastrophe" in the Kivus in an international campaign to extort political power for the rebel movement in its dealings with Kigali.
Murwanashyaka, 47, is currently on trial in a German court, where he is facing 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 counts of war crimes committed by militias under his command between January 2008 and his arrest in Germany in November 2009.
An ethnic Hutu, Mbarushimana is also wanted in Rwanda for his role in the murder of Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, court documents said. He later moved to France were he was given refugee status in 2003.
Prosecutors believe Mbarushimana "directed or helped to direct" from Paris the abuses carried out in clashes between the FDLR and both the Congolese and Rwandan armies.
The FDLR went on the rampage against Congolese civilians, forcing men to rape women, mutilating the genitals of rape victims, cutting open the wombs of pregnant women to remove their fetuses, and burning down homes.
Mbarushimana's lawyer Nick Kaufman told AFP the defence will "argue and will prove that there is no evidence to support the charges ... against Mr Mbarushimana."
Arrested on an ICC warrant in October last year in Paris and imprisoned at the UN's detention centre in The Hague, Mbarushimana made an initial appearance before the ICC on January 28 where he protested his innocence.
© 2011 AFP