A disappointing bystander

The recent arrest of Calixte Mbarushimana in Paris has largely been seen by the international community as a great advancement for justice in Eastern DRC and international justice at large. The case however highlights France’s ambivalence towards its responsibilities in the prosecution of war criminals.

The recent arrest of Calixte Mbarushimana in Paris has largely been seen by the international community as a great advancement for justice in Eastern DRC and international justice at large. The case however highlights France’s ambivalence towards its responsibilities in the prosecution of war criminals.

Calixte Mbarushimana, the executive secretary of the FDLR (an armed group operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo) was arrested in Paris following the issuance of a warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in September, as part of the court investigation in the Kivus. It is of course laudable that French authorities have arrested the Hutu militia leader, although certainly a minimum for a country who is a signatory of the Rome Statute and therefore support and finance the ICC. But Mbarushimana neither appeared on French territory out of the blue, nor did he come into the ICC firing line randomly.

As a leader of the FDLR, one of the most violent militia in Eastern DRC, Mbarushimana was on a UN list of suspects for several years already. Despite France being a member of the UN Security Council and numerous calls from human rights groups, the Rwandan was residing in Paris for the past ten years or so, unthreatened.

Disturbing enough, it becomes positively depressing when put in comparison with Germany’s proactive approach to international justice. A year ago, the FDLR president, Ignace Murwanashyaka, and his deputy Straton Musoni, were arrested in Germany following an investigation by German prosecutors under the Rome Status for crimes allegedly committed in the DRC. Murwanashyaka and Musoni had been living in Germany for some time already and were arrested on a German warrant, issued by German prosecutors, who investigated with German financial resources. A real victory for international justice, as the ICC cannot prosecute every war criminal in every corner of the planet. It is for its member states to take action themselves and enforce what they signed for, like Germany who investigated and arrested two alleged war criminals on its territory for crimes committed in a foreign country on a foreign people. Although France’s heritage of the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen should position it as a pioneer of international justice, it has so far been a disappointing bystander.

This post was first published on Going with the Wind

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