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DRC war crimes suspect denies allegations at initial ICC appearance

Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader Callixte Mbarushimana [case materials] made his initial appearance [press release] before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday and denied the charges against him, which relate to violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in 2009. The court provided official notice of the charges against Mbarushimana, which include five counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes including murder, rape, torture, and attacks against the civilian population, and also informed him of his rights under the Rome Statute [text, PDF]. In addition to denying the charges, Mbarushimana stated that he has consistently fought injustice and human exploitation [AP report] and that he strongly condemns attacks on civilians. Mbarushimana was arrested in October by French authorities and transferred to the Hague [JURIST reports] earlier this month on an order issued by the ICC. The ICC order stated that evidence supported the idea that Mbarushimana, in his role as Executive Secretary of the FDLR, "has personally and intentionally contributed to a common plan of conducting attacks against the civilian population in order to create a 'humanitarian catastrophe' and to launch an international campaign to extort concessions of political power for the FDLR." The ICC will hold a confirmation of charges hearing on July 4, 2011 in order to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Mbarushimana committed each of the crimes charged. If the charges are confirmed, the case will be referred to the Trial Chamber for further proceedings.

In addition to facing allegations relating to violence in the DRC, Mbarushimana has also been linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide [JURIST news archive]. In December, a French judge charged Mbarushimana [JURIST report] with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the genocide. In 2008, Mbarushimana was arrested by German border police [JURIST report] as he attempted to travel to Russia on charges that he killed 32 people during the Rwandan genocide. In 2005, the UN asked France to bring genocide charges [JURIST report] against Mbarushimana, who was then in the country under refugee status. Carla Del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website], refused to charge him and said the ICTR did not file an indictment against Mbarushimana because it lacked sufficient evidence against him.

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