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French Court Orders Transfer of Rwandan Rebel to ICC

Rwandan Callixte Mbarushimana speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Paris (file photo - Oct 2009)

A French court has approved the transfer of an exiled Rwandan rebel leader to the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges.

The Paris appeals court Wednesday approved the extradition of Callixte Mbarushimana to the ICC in The Hague, but only on the condition that he not be sent later to Rwanda.

Rwanda has the death penalty, which France opposes.

Mbarushimana has been charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for alleged murders, rapes and property destruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The suspect is a former leader of the FDLR, a Rwandan rebel group based in eastern Congo.

French authorities arrested him in Paris last month on a warrant from the International Criminal Court.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo described the arrest as a crucial step in efforts to prosecute sex crimes in the DRC, where more than 15,000 cases of sexual violence were reported last year.

The court said FDLR rebels have carried out horrific crimes against civilians in eastern Congo for years. The group was established by ethnic Hutus who took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis and fled to Congo after the killing spree was stopped.

Mbarushimana reportedly fled Rwanda following the genocide and had been living in France where he received refugee status in 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.