- When Judge Robert Fremr announced the verdict, he showed no emotion.
- His defenders argued that Ntaganda himself was a victim, as he had been recruited as a child soldier.
- "The UPC attacked their victims mainly on the basis of their ethnicity."
Today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has condemned a Congolese rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Known as the “Terminator,” Ntaganda was charged for his role in atrocities in an ethnic conflict from 2002 to 2003.
The ICC found him guilty on all 18 charges. These included cruel massacres, the use of child soldiers and sexual enslavement of young girls. Bosco Ntaganda asserted his innocence during the trial. When Judge Robert Fremr announced the verdict, he showed no emotion. The sentence is to be announced at a later meeting – Ntaganda faces a life sentence.
According to the BBC, the court held three charges against Ntaganda: for murder, attempted murder and targeted attacks on civilians. In the charges of rape and sexual enslavement, the court saw him as an indirect accomplice. The judges also found that Ntaganda had participated in killings when his commanders raged in the region in the northeast of the Congo.
Ntaganda rejected all allegations. His defenders argued that Ntaganda himself was a victim, as he had been recruited as a child soldier.
The 46-year-old Rwandan was a commander of the rebel group “Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo” in Ituri province, northern Congo. The former rebel leader was charged in 2006 but was serving as a general in the Congolese armed forces. Before joining the authorities in 2013, he was responsible for attacks on villages in which at least 800 people were killed.
Ntaganda served as Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) deputy chief. Its founder and leader, Thomas Lubanga, already has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for war crimes by the International Criminal Court at The Hague in 2012.
During Ntaganda’s militia advancement, “men, women, and children were shot or hacked to pieces,” said prosecutor Nicole Samson in her plea on August 2018, according to the “International Justice Monitor” website in its litigation report.
“These crimes were not isolated cases, they were committed on a large scale and systematically as a result of Ntaganda’s careful training,” Samson said. In Kilo, a village in Congo, rape had become so commonplace that antibiotics were distributed to militia officers to cure themselves sexually transmitted diseases.
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“The UPC attacked their victims mainly on the basis of their ethnicity,” criminal court prosecutors said. Especially affected were the groups of Lendu, Bira, and Nande.
“We expect much from the International Criminal Court,” said Lendu spokesman before the verdict. “We hope that the court will return the victims’ rights and compensate them for Bosco Ntaganda’s crimes,” said Jean-Marie Ndjaza, Lendu Community Vice President. “We have no doubt that he will be convicted and we trust the Tribunal.”
People in the region have been “waiting too long” for justice, says Luc Malembe, Bunia resident, capital of Ituri province. The court issued an arrest warrant for Ntaganda in 2006, but he was arrested only in 2013 and the trial began in 2015.
After leaving the Union of Congolese Patriots and serving as a Congolese army general for a while, Ntaganda founded another rebel militia in 2012, the M23. This group is also being charged with serious crimes including mass executions, rape and the use of child soldiers in North Kivu.
In 2013, UN forces and the Congolese army defeated the M23 rebel group. Until then, the militias controlled large parts of the mining region in eastern DR Congo, including in Goma, North Kivu. Tens of thousands of people fled the fighting.