Rwandan rebel was war crimes linchpin": court

16th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana was the "linchpin" in a plan to use rape and murder of Congolese citizens as a means to achieve political power, the International Criminal Court heard Friday.

Mbarushimana, 48, faces 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's provinces of Nord Kivu and Sud Kivu in 2009.

"He was the linchpin, the man who could transform crimes committed in the Kivus into political leverage in Rwanda," deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges at an ICC hearing.

Identified as the executive secretary of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebel group, the Rwandan-born Mbarushimana is accused of plotting a "human catastrophe" in the Kivus in an international campaign to extort political power for the rebels in their dealings with Kigali.

"Mr Mbarushimana represented the respectable public face of the FDLR. He spoke the language of peace" to the international community, Bensouda said at the opening of a confirmation of charges hearing in The Hague.

"But behind the message of peace however, the implicit threat was that unless enemies (of the FDLR) stop from trying to oust them, the killings of civilians would continue."

Prosecutors at the hearing are attempting to convince judges that they have enough evidence to proceed to trial against Mbarushimana while defence lawyers will be given a chance to refute the charges in the hearing set to last four days.

Rwandan-born Mbarushimana, together with senior FDLR leaders Ignace Murwanashyaka and Sylvestre Mudacumbura are named in plotting the campaign against civilians in the Kivus.

Murwanashyaka 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.

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.

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.

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

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