11 October 2010, Mr. Callixte Mbarushimana, a leader of the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), was arrested today, in Paris, by the French authorities following a sealed arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo thanked France for a smooth and efficient operation. He described the arrest of Mr. Mbarushimana as a “crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC”where over 15,000 cases of sexual violence were reported in 2009 alone.
And another one bites the dust…except, there are far more suspects at large than there are behind bars. In fact, it is a small miracle anytime the International Criminal Court is able to nab a suspect.
There are currently ten cases before the court involving fifteen suspects. Only six of these suspects are currently in custody. The rest remain at large.
Some of the suspects evade arrest by staying far outside of any jurisdiction capable of arresting them, no matter how much governments would like to do so. This includes Joseph Kony and other leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army who are located somewhere in the lawless borderlands of the DRC, Central African Republic and Sudan.
Most of the wanted suspects, however, are hiding in plain sight. Ahmed Haroun, wanted for crimes in Darfur, is a governor of South Kordofan province in Sudan. Omar al-Bashir, wanted for Genocide, is, well, the president. Unless these suspects turn themselves in, the only practical way to secure their transfer to The Hague is if the state somehow complies. When the state dutifully protects a suspect, there is little chance he’ll find his way to a cell in Scheveningen.
This brings us to one of the more vexing at-large suspects wanted by the ICC: the Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda. His warrant was unsealed in 2008, but so far he has eluded capture by endearing himself to the Congolese government. He is, in fact, a currently serving general in the Congolese National Army– a position he earned by signing a peace deal with the state. In exchange, the Congolese government promised to ignore the ICC warrant.
Ntaganda may have changed uniforms, but he did not cease being a war criminal. In fact, just today Human Rights Watch released a report implementing Ntaganda in a series of political assassinations since January.
Since January 2010, Ntaganda has been implicated in the assassination of at least eight people, arbitrary arrests of another seven, and the abduction and disappearance of at least one more. Some of these incidents occurred in eastern Congo, others in neighboring Rwanda.
Ntaganda, who lives and moves about openly in Goma, in eastern Congo, has also directly or indirectly threatened more than two dozen people whom he perceives as opposing him.
The ICC depends on states’ cooperation to arrest and transfer war crimes suspects. French police demonstrated the ideal by executing a sealed arrest warrant against a suspect living in France. Unfortunately, that kind of cooperation with the court seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Unless the international community raises the political costs for states that evade their obligations to the ICC, the court’s value in preventing and punishing war crimes will remain limited.