- Ntaganda was former deputy chief of the General Staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (FPLC) between 2002 and 2003.
- The 30-year sentence is the maximum that the ICC can impose.
- It was also the first time that the court in The Hague recognized the existence of a crime of sexual slavery.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced former Congolese rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda, to 30 years in prison Thursday for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is the longest sentence issued so far by the ICC.
Ntaganda was former deputy chief of the General Staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (FPLC) between 2002 and 2003. The sentence is even bigger than that received by the FPLC chief himself, Thomas Lubanga, to whom the same court slammed with a 14 year jail term.
The 30-year sentence is the maximum that the ICC can impose. Judges can impose life imprisonment in the most extreme cases, but the panel of three judges who tried the former rebel leader considered that the conditions for applying such punishment were not met. The presiding judge of the court, Robert Fremr, emphasized both the seriousness of the crimes and the physical and psychological consequences suffered by the victims of Ntaganda to justify the conviction. “They suffered stigmatization and social rejection,” said the magistrate, who gave as an example the case of a minor raped by members of the FPLC whose wounds “took months to heal,” which made her leave school and suffered post-traumatic stress.
The magistrates ruled out imposing a fine, although victims may claim compensation at hearings that will be held soon. The convict shall remain incarcerated at the ICC detention center in The Hague, as the defense has already announced it’s intentions to file an appeal . In case the judges confirm in the second instance the jail sentence, it will be decided in which country Ntaganda could serve the rest of the sentence.
The arrest warrant against him was issued in 2006, while he was still in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He presented himself in March 2013 at the US embassy in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, where he requested to be taken to the ICC to answer charges against him. Last July, the judges declared Ntaganda guilty of all the crimes he faced, including the enlistment of child soldiers, allowing sexual abuse of minors, murder, persecution, and ordering attacks against the civilian population of Ituri, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, between 2002 and 2003.
It was also the first time that the court in The Hague recognized the existence of a crime of sexual slavery during the conflict in that country. The court considered it proven that the 45-year-old former rebel leader, also known as “the Terminator,” was directly responsible for the crimes of murder and persecution, and the indirect perpetrator of the remaining charges.
The legal process against Bosco Ntaganda is the last regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo judged by the ICC. This is in addition to Lubanga’s fourteen years and twelve years for Germain Katanga, head of another guerrilla group.