AMSTERDAM The Hague war crimes prosecutor announced new charges on Monday against a Democratic Republic of Congo general accused of conscripting child fighters and an arrest warrant for a militia leader.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court said he has asked for additional charges to be filed against Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted in The Hague for war crimes, and has requested an arrest warrant for Sylvestre Mudacumura, the leader of FDLR militia operating in the Kivu provinces in the DRC.
"Both arrests would be instrumental to making peace in the Great Lakes area. The two men are leaders of the two groups fighting here so their arrest would have a huge impact," Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters.
"Kivu is one of the richest areas in terms of minerals and gold but the people here are suffering from the conflict. If we can arrest Mudacumura and Bosco there is a good chance their followers will demobilize and it will be possible to develop the region because of its riches," he added.
Lambert Mende, Congo's minister of communications and government spokesman, welcomed the arrest warrant for Mudacumura and said the Central African nation was seeking to arrest Ntanganda on charges of extremely serious crimes.
"We intend to judge him (Ntaganda) ourselves, however, the courts will decide whether to transfer him to the international tribunal," Mende told Reuters by phone from Kinshasa on Monday.
Last month, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, said the authorities would arrest serving army general Ntaganda, who is wanted for crimes committed during the 1998-2003 conflict.
The ICC has sought Ntaganda's arrest for six years on charges he conscripted children to fight in a bloody ethnic conflict in northeastern Congo that grew out of a broader civil war. Ntaganda denies involvement in war crimes.
The ICC prosecutor said he would press additional charges of crimes against humanity of murder, persecution based on ethnic grounds, and rape or sexual slavery, as well as war crimes, including intentional attacks against civilians and murder.
Kabila's announcement in April that Ntaganda would be arrested marked a reversal for the Congolese government which had previously resisted calls to arrest him, saying he was the linchpin for a fragile peace deal that integrated his fighters into the national army in 2009.
Kabila's U-turn has led to clashes between the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo and soldiers loyal to Ntaganda, prompting the U.N. Security Council earlier this month to express its "deep concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation in the area".
The prosecutor said he has requested an arrest warrant for Mudacumura, describing him as a leader of one of the most active militia in the Kivu provinces who launched a campaign of attacks against the civilian populations in the area.
Mudacumura is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity - murder, inhumane acts, rape, torture and persecution - as well as nine counts of war crimes including attacks against a civilian population, murder and mutilation.
The alleged crimes were committed by the FDLR-FOCA between January 20, 2009 and August 31, 2010, in North and South Kivu Provinces, the prosecutor said in a statement.
The leaders of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) fled to Congo after the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were killed.
The group played a major role in Congo's 1998-2003 conflict, in which 5 million people died, and has continued mass rapes, torture and killing.
The war crimes prosecutor had said in 2010 that he regarded the Rwandan rebel leaders Mudacumura, Ignace Murwanashyaka, and Callixte Mbarushimana as bearing the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed by the FDLR in the Kivus since early 2009.
Mbarushimana was handed over to the war crimes court in January 2011 after a two-year investigation and faced charges including murder, rape and torture in the DRC.
But in December 2011, the court ordered his release for lack of evidence. The prosecutor has appealed the decision.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Bienvenu Bakumanya in Kinshasa; Editing by Michael Roddy)