The head of the Rwandan rebel group FDLR, Callixte Mbarushimana, accused of commiting war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been extradited from France to the Hague. Callixte Mbarushimana was arrested in Paris last October, following a request from the International Criminal Court. The Hutu rebel leader has denied accusations that he ordered his FDLR fighters to kill and rape civilians.
Mr Mbarushimana, 47, faces five counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes, including charges of murder, torture, rape, inhumane acts and persecution, and destruction of property.
A French court has previously rejected an appeal against Mr Mbarushimana's extradition but ruled he should not be sent to Rwanda, where his lawyers say he would not get a fair trial.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the prosecution of the FDLR leaders "will provide the opportunity to demobilise this armed group".
"Rape can no longer be used as a weapon of war. In the ICC era, the fate of leaders and commanders who plan or oversee campaigns of mass crimes against civilians is to face justice," he said.
Mr de Merode said he had had reports in recent days of more than 700 FDLR fighters coming into Virunga park territory.
FDLR fighters were accused of raping hundreds of people in eastern DR Congo last year, although the group has denied responsibility. Some FDLR leaders allegedly took part in the 1994 slaughter of some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. After a Tutsi-dominated group took power ending the genocide, some FDLR members fled into what is now DR Congo, sparking years of unrest in the region.
Rwanda has twice sent its troops into DR Congo, saying they are needed to stop Hutu fighters, such as the FDLR, from using Congolese territory to attack Rwanda. This led to the six-year conflict in DR Congo and the deaths of some five million people. The FDLR is now one of the most powerful rebel forces operating in the east of the country, where they are believed to make millions of dollars a year by controlling mines rich in gold and other minerals, and extorting money from local people.
Mr Mbarushimana, who has been living in Paris, has described the FDLR as a freedom movement, fighting "to liberate the Rwandan people from the yoke of the fascist regime" of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which is still in power in Kigali. (BBC)