France arrests Rwandan war crimes suspect

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Police in France on Monday arrested Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the French government said.

Mbarushimana "was arrested today on French territory" by French authorities acting on a warrant issued in September by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a foreign ministry statement said.

The court said in a statement that Mbarushimana, 47, 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, said the ICC.

It said 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.

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.

The Kinshasa government welcomed Mbarushimana's arrest. "It's good news for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the whole Great Lakes region," government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP.

"Mbarushimana led from Europe the FDLR's armed bands which spread death and destruction in our country and threatened security in their own country," Rwanda, he said.

The FDLR traces its roots to Rwandan army and Hutu Interahamwe extremist militia members who fled to DR Congo, called Zaire at the time, when Tutsis took power in Kigali in July 1994 following the genocide in Rwanda.

The fighters formed the army that became the FDLR, launching attacks across the border in Rwanda and trying unsuccessfully to topple the Kigali regime in 2001.

In 2009 UN-backed Congolese forces beat back the FDLR, which is accused of carrying out numerous atrocities against civilians.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the FDLR committed at least 630 murders of civilians between January and September 2009.

© 2010 AFP

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