A man accused of helping direct a campaign of severe war crimes and crimes against humanity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo was arrested in France, 7 years after fleeing there to evade justice for his actions. Callixte Mbarushimana is a top official of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the FDLR, a rebel group that for years has wreaked havoc in the Great Lakes region of Africa following the genocide that tore apart Rwanda in 1994. His arrest sends a powerful signal that the international community won't tolerate the FDLR reign of terror and the group’s leaders won't enjoy impunity for their crimes.
French authorities acted on an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It charged Mbarushimana with eleven counts of crimes allegedly committed in 2009, including murder, rape, torture, attacks against civilians, destruction of property, inhuman treatment and persecution. As the FDLR's executive secretary, he is believed to have helped lead the group’s activities from abroad, and he was previously listed for targeted sanctions by the United Nations and United States.
Mbarushimana has denied any responsibility for war crimes and says FDLR fighters don't attack civilians. But even as the French were acting on the ICC's warrant, the FDLR and other actors were engaging in mass rapes of more than 500 women and children in eastern Congo in August and September.
The FDLR has used the forests of eastern Congo as a sanctuary to attack Rwanda, while also pilfering Congo’s mineral wealth to support its activities. The result has been an on-going conflict that has killed or displaced millions.
We must not lose focus on the victims of these crimes. The United States strongly supports accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law around the world. We welcome Mbarushimana's arrest and support the ICC's other investigations into atrocities committed in the DRC. We support as well Rwanda’s continuing efforts to encourage FDLR soldiers and their dependents to demobilize and return home in Rwanda. Such steps are indispensible to establishing a lasting peace in the Congo.