Doubts about ICC in DRC
In a dramatic twist to the hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC), the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has sought a warrant of arrest against Genocide fugitive Sylvestre Mudacumura, the supreme commander of the Rwandan rebel militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or by its French acronym FDLR.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on Monday evening that he will also seek to expand the charges facing Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda, against whom a warrant was issued in April 2006.
Responding to queries from The New Times on Monday evening, the office of the ICC prosecutor expressed optimism that the two new arrest warrants would contribute to establishing peace and security in the Great Lakes region.
But there are doubts about ICC’s ability to arrest the suspects and the fact that being fugitives from international law, makes them intransigent and a bigger threat to peace in the region.
“We hope these two arrest warrants against leaders of militias… could help to stop the crimes,” said Moreno-Ocampo.
Until Moreno-Ocampo’s surprise targeting of Mudacumura, little was publicly known about the furtive warlord outside Rwanda and in the DRC. But the FDLR has been involved in crimes against humanity in eastern DRC for some time. It is a recent incarnation of rebel groups established by perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, in which an estimated one million people were killed.
FDLR, which owes no particular allegiance to any known cause and is blocked from carrying out mischief on the Rwandan side of the border by the more vigilant and superior RDF, has spread its brand of terror in the Kivu region of the DRC. It has been reduced to a mercenary outfit at the disposal of the country shifty and querulous warlords and politicians, who incessantly bicker over the country’s rich mineral resources and power.
Mudacumura could face charges of crimes against humanity, pillage and the use of child soldiers, which would drastically reduce his options of life outside the warzone. Indeed, security experts who spoke to The New Times say the increasing number of ICC fugitives in the DRC makes peace a lot harder to achieve and sustain.
They point at the destruction and anarchy in the wake of the misguided Ugandan rebel, Joseph Kony and Ntaganda.
Both may have nothing to gain by either giving themselves up or by pursuing peace, and can only feel safe in escalating the violence that guarantees their freedom. This is especially true in the wake of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga’s conviction in March 2012 by the ICC for crimes in the DRC.
Ntaganda is a former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC) and is believed to be the head of the Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP) armed group, which is active in North Kivu in the DRC.
Ntaganda’s expanded warrant
Ntaganda, who, ironically, is a general in the DRC army, is a more recognisable name and a regular fixture in the country’s warfront.
Though Moreno-Ocampo is seeking an expansion of the warrant of arrest against him, he has so far proved elusive. He was one of the top commanders in the militia led by Lubanga.
The ICC issued a warrant of arrest against Ntaganda for crimes committed against civilians in the Ituri region of DRC from 2002 to 2003. In the original case, he faced charges of crimes against humanity and the conscription and use of child soldiers in war.
Moreno-Ocampo said that an examination of the evidence collected during the Lubanga trial has led him to request for an expansion of the arrest warrant against Ntaganda for murder, persecution based on ethnic grounds, rape, sexual slavery, attacking civilians and pillaging.
“The followers of Ntaganda and Mudacumura have to understand that it is time for them to demobilise and stop their crimes, even help in arresting the leaders,” said the ICC Prosecutor, whose term of office comes to an end next month.
In a guarded caution to the DRC army, he said it was important that any new plan to attack these groups takes into consideration the fact that past military operations against them have produced civilian casualties.
“So it’s time to refine the methods and we hope the Congolese army can transform these military operations into arrest operations,” he stated.
Major General Mudacumura was the deputy commander of the Presidential Guard of the Rwandan Armed Forces during the 1994 Genocide. He is said to be about 58 years old. He fled to Germany with his wife and children with the help of FDLR political leader Ignace Murwanashyaka.
The ICC, which is based in The Hague, is the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
It can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002. The Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor or a State Party to the court can initiate any proceedings, and the ICC only acts when countries themselves are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute.
In addition to the situation in DRC, the Court has ongoing investigations in the Central African Republic, the Darfur region of western Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.
Last weekend, the UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic issued a terse statement in which he declared that “the human rights situation in the DRC was of grave concern to the international community.”
He accused the FDLR, the LRA and the Mayi Mayi militias of committing serious atrocities in the Kivu flashpoint against civilians. He said the crimes would not go unpunished.
The ICC has already issued six warrants of arrest and indictments over the protracted violence in the DRC.