ICC: Calls to Convict Congolese Rebel

(Photo: initial appearance of Bosco Ntaganda, 26 March 2013 © ICC-CPI)

This week the International Criminal Court (ICC) has heard the closing remarks of the three-year trial of Bosco Ntaganda, the Congolese warlord accused of 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity. 

The 13 counts of war crimes include:

  1. murder and attempted murder;
  2. attacking civilians;
  3. rape;
  4. sexual slavery of civilians;
  5. pillaging;
  6. displacement of civilians;
  7. attacking protected objects;
  8. destroying the enemy’s property;
  9. and rape, sexual slavery, enlistment and conscription of child soldiers under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.

While the 5 counts of crimes against humanity include:

  1. murder and attempted murder;
  2. rape;
  3. sexual slavery;
  4. persecution; and
  5. forcible transfer of population

The crimes were allegedly committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri Province between 2002-2003, while Ntaganda was Deputy Chief of Staff of the Congolese militia group, Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC – Union des Patriotes Congolais).

Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, stated in her closing remarks that “the evidence shows that Bosco Ntaganda personally committed crimes,” adding “he persecuted and attacked civilians, he murdered them, pillaged their goods, destroyed their charities and hospitals. And he enlisted and used children under the age of 15 to participate directly in hostilities.”

Bensouda also revealed that this case was a landmark for the ICC, telling the trial judges that it is the first time that the sexual enslavement of soldiers has been recognised as a separate crime within the court’s jurisdiction. 

Throughout the trial Ntaganda, who surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda in 2013 before being handed over to the ICC, argued that he was a peacemaker trying to keep order in the Ituri Province of the DRC, and that he had been falsely accused of harming civilians. He argued that the nickname he was given, Terminator, was unfair. 

Bensouda summarised witness testimonies in her closing remarks, including one young girl who was referred to as “common pot” after being consistently raped by Ntaganda’s UPC soldiers.

She further quoted the statement of a witness who described the mass murder of 50 members of the DRC’s ethnic Lendu tribe, telling the court “a lot of people were executed by hand with machetes … some of them were disembowelled, even pregnant women.”

No date for a verdict has been set for Ntaganda. Keep abreast of further case updates here.

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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