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US Embassy says Ambassador Rapp was misquoted on Rwanda

The United States Embassy in Kigali has said the media reports suggesting that senior Rwandan officials faced possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged support to DRC’s M23 rebels were inaccurate.
MISQUOTED: Stephen Rapp. Net photo.
MISQUOTED: Stephen Rapp. Net photo.

The United States Embassy in Kigali has said the media reports suggesting that senior Rwandan officials faced possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged support to DRC’s M23 rebels were inaccurate.

The reports, initially published in The Guardian of the UK, were attributed to Ambassador Stephen Rapp, the head of the US Office of Global Criminal Justice.

“Ambassador (Stephen) Rapp was not calling for any specific prosecution in this case,” Susan Falatko, the Public Affairs Officer, at the American Embassy in Kigali told The New Times, saying the official was misquoted by the newspaper.

In The Guardian interview, Falatko explained, Rapp may have been misunderstood since the context of the interview was Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president who was, in May, sentenced by a UN-backed war crimes court to 50 years in prison for his role in aiding and abetting crimes in the neighbouring Sierra Leone.

“He sought to underscore the importance of holding to account those responsible for crimes against humanity, noting as a general principle that neighbouring countries have been held responsible in the past for cross-border support to armed groups,” she added.

The diplomat noted that Washington’s “immediate focus is on the cessation of violence, end of outside support to all rebel groups, demobilisation of those groups and protection of civilians and their human rights.”

The Guardian story had suggested that Rwandan leaders, who have been accused of supporting Congo rebels – despite the lack of credible evidence – risk prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

However, on Thursday, a senior ICC official said the Hague-based court was not investigating any Rwandan leader.

The court’s focus is on the arrest of the rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda of the M23 rebel group, Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division at the ICC, told reporters during a visit to Nairobi.

Earlier this month, the court issued a second arrest warrant against Ntaganda, along with Sylvestre Mudacumura, the field commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a terrorist group largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda which has maintained bases in eastern DRC for the last 18 years.

“We are not in any way looking at Rwanda and in addition to that Rwanda is not even a state party to the ICC,” Mochochoko reportedly said.

Kigali has challenged the report by a UN Panel of Experts on the Congo, which accused senior Rwandan officials of supporting M23 rebels, largely composed of former members of the ex-CNDP rebel movement, who deserted the army in April citing Kinshasa’s failure to honour its commitments under a March 23, 2009 peace deal.

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