THE HAGUE – A former rebel leader from the Democratic Republic of Congo was convicted on Monday of war crimes and offenses against humanity.
The International Criminal Court found Bosco Ntaganda, 45, guilty of 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity.
The former deputy leader of the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), the military wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots, who came to be known as the Terminator, was charged with recruiting child soldiers, allowing sexual abuse against minors and ordering attacks against civilians in Ituri province, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo between July 2002 and 2003.
A panel of judges Robert Fremr, Kuniko Ozaki and Chang-ho Chung at the Hague found him guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
They convicted him of war crimes that included murder, attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation.
He also committed crimes against humanity including “murder and attempted murder, intentionally directing attacks against civilians, rape, sexual slavery, ordering the displacement of the civilian population, conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years into an armed group and using them to participate actively in hostilities, intentionally directing attacks against protected objects, and destroying the adversary’s property.”
The ICC said Ntaganda was found to be a direct perpetrator for parts of the charges in three of the crimes, including murder and persecution, and was an indirect perpetrator for other crimes.
Details of his offenses were detailed with the reading of the judgment.
The majority of FPLC’s crimes were ethnic Lendus, many of whom were forced out of the mineral-rich Ituri province by the militias, which were dominated by ethnic Hemas.
Presiding judge Fremr described the former militiaman as a “key leader” and someone who had made calls on at least three occasions to recruit child soldiers.
These child soldiers were threatened, subjected to physical violence while at least three girls younger than 15 were raped repeatedly by members of the FPLC.
Ntaganda also ordered his troops to forcibly displace and attack civilians in Ituri and personally executed several of these people himself, the judgment said.
One of the attacks carried out by the FPLC saw the guerrilla group massacre 49 people, whose bodies were found in a banana plantation, tied up and displaying signs of machete injuries.
“Some bodies were found naked, some had their hands tied up and some had their heads crushed. Several bodies were disemboweled or otherwise mutilated,” Fremr said.
The trial against the former rebel leader opened on September 2, 2015, and since then, the court has seen 248 hearings including 80 witnesses and expert accounts.
The maximum penalty at the ICC is 30 years in prison, although that term can be extended in exceptional cases.
It was the latest DRC-linked case to be processed at the ICC which recently sentenced the former head of the FPLC, Thomas Lubanga and the head of a separate guerrilla group, Germain Katanga.
The ICC filed an international arrest warrant for Ntaganda in August 2006, when he was still in the DRC.
He handed himself over to the United States embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali in 2013 and has since been held in detention at The Hague, the Netherlands.