The International Criminal Court (ICC), Friday, ordered the release of Callixte Mbarushimana, the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia.
Mbarushimana, the Secretary General of the terrorist outfit, was released by the Hague-based court on the premise of lack of evidence
Based in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) FDLR has been accused of killing, raping, maiming and plundering resources in the central African country.
The ICC judges say there was not enough evidence “to establish substantial grounds to believe” that he could be held criminally responsible for the eight counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity which he had been facing.
Maj. Gen. Paul Rwarakabije, a former FDLR commander who abandoned the group nine years ago, is among those astonished by the ICC’s decision.
“Saying that evidence is lacking is out of the question; they just take a case any way they want, mixing criminal and political issues,” he said.
Rwarakabije, who is now the Commissioner General of Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), believes there is enough evidence to pin Mbarushimana.
“I really get surprised when people mishandle such an important case…I wonder if they want these atrocities by the FDLR to continue or to stop,” said Rwarakabije.
Following the ICC ruling on Friday, a global network of civil society organizations in 150 countries advocating for a fair, effective and independent ICC, issued a release, saying that the case was not ready for trial at the ICC.
“It is a reality that FDLR forces continue to be very active in the east of DRC, and the grave crimes they are committing against the civilian population have gone unpunished for many years,” Andre Kito, Coordinator of the DRC Coalition for the ICC, is quoted.
“The arrest of Mbarushimana and his subsequent hearings before the ICC had brought great hope to victims and affected communities in the region that justice would be delivered, so the decision will undoubtedly accentuate their suffering and concerns about their security,” Kito added.
“There are many other FDLR leaders who should also be the subject of ICC investigations, given the ever-increasing number of crimes committed by them against civilians”.
The ICC prosecutor argued that there was sufficient evidence to try Mbarushimana – the first senior FDLR leader brought before the ICC for alleged crimes committed in the DRC for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed between January and September 2009 in the DRC.
Survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and rights groups allege that, on top of committing war crimes in the DRC, Mbarushimana committed Genocide crimes in 1994 in Rwanda.
During the Genocide, Mbarushimana worked for the UNDP in Kigali and he is accused of using the facilities of the UN during the Genocide to facilitate killings, mainly around Kigali City.
Mbarushimana has asked to be released to France, where he lived before his arrest in October 2010.
“We need to contact French authorities and see if they accept him,” the Associated Press quotes Fadi El Abdallah, the court spokesman, as saying.Follow https://twitter.com/KarhangaJames