Arresting Callixte: Does it Matter?

Yes, it does.

I have gone on the record saying that Callixte’s arrest is probably not going to have a huge impact on FDLR demobilizations from the field. My reasoning was the following: Callixte, along with the rest of the political leadership, was appointed by the FDLR military leadership in order to gain greater legitimacy long after the group had developed its military structures in the field. While they influenced military operations, they were no Joseph Kony or Jonas Savimbi. Arresting them will hurt the group’s morale, but will not seriously damage the military chain of command. Even the morale may not be so important: Most soldiers have long since given up the hope of returning victoriously to Rwanda and are interested more in survival than in ideology.

Take, for example, the arrest of FDLR president Ignace Murwanashyaka and vice-president Straton Musoni in Germany in November 2009. It has been a year since putting them in the clink and most experts in the field seem to think it is the military campaign against the FDLR that has led to the 30-50% reduction in troops, not these arrests.

Of course, we may never know. One could argue, for example, that the arrest of Ignace and Straton affected leadership dynamics within the military, allowing the divisions between northerners and southerners to fester further.

So why do I think the arrest is a good thing?

First, because it sets an important precedent: For years, armed groups in the Congo have been relying on Diaspora members for propaganda, diplomacy and financing. For groups like the CNDP and the FDLR, this was very important – they maintained outreach coordinators in several foreign cities. Mai-Mai groups have antennae in Tanzania, while Ituri armed groups are often present in Kampala. These armchair rebel leaders deny knowing about the crimes their troops commit, while lobbying for them and looking for finances. Shutting these networks down is a good thing if the group are as abusive as the FDLR.

Secondly, this is an important legal precedent, although I’m not entirely sure if this is the right tactic. The prosecutor won the arrest warrant based on Article 25 (3) (d) of the Rome Statute, the so-called “common purpose” argument:

a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if that person: In any other way contributes to the commission or attempted commission of such a crime by a group of persons acting with a common purpose. Such contribution shall be intentional and shall either:

    (i) Be made with the aim of furthering the criminal activity or criminal purpose of the group, where such activity or purpose involves the commission of a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court; or(ii) Be made in the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit the crime;

This is the first time the court issues a warrant based solely on the common purpose argument. Some legal experts think this is a bridge too far, as no other international tribunal has argued such an expansive mode of liability before. It could be good, as it would be a serious deterrent for any sort of support to abusive armed groups, including financing or perhaps even propaganda, but is could also be too wide a net that will bog the court down in long legal battles.