Monday 21 October 2019

Congolese 'Terminator' guilty of war crimes

Facing life: Bosco Ntaganda 'directly perpetrated crimes' in the Congo. Photo: REUTERS/Eva Plevier
Facing life: Bosco Ntaganda 'directly perpetrated crimes' in the Congo. Photo: REUTERS/Eva Plevier

Alessio Perrone

A notorious rebel commander known as Congo's "Terminator" was yesterday found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Bosco Ntaganda (45) led rebels who killed and raped civilians, made them sexual slaves and conscripted child soldiers, during the bloody tribal conflict in the mineral- rich Ituri region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002-2003, ICC judges said.

A separate hearing will determine his sentence - he faces a maximum life sentence and has 30 days to appeal.

Presiding judge Robert Fremr said that Ntaganda was guilty as a direct perpetrator or a co-perpetrator of a string of crimes.

"He wasn't like other warlords who gave orders from the rear and then claimed they weren't involved - he directly perpetrated crimes," Anneke Van Woudenberg said.

Ms Van Woudenberg, who used to be senior researcher on the Congo for Human Rights Watch, has been documenting Ntaganda's and other warlords' crimes since 2003 and has interviewed him on several occasions. She testified in the trial and handed over information to the court.

Judge Fremr detailed specific instances of acts Ntaganda was responsible for, such as personal calls for children to join his forces, as well as killings by his men, including that of a pregnant woman who had been kept in a pit.

On one occasion, fighters under his command raped a nine-year-old girl.

On another, Ntaganda himself shot and killed an elderly man serving as a Catholic priest after detaining and brutally interrogating him.

Judge Fremr said that Ntaganda was also guilty of a massacre in a banana field behind a building called The Paradiso.

"The bodies of those killed - men women and children and babies - were found in the banana field over the next days," Judge Fremr said. "Some bodies were found naked, some had their hands tied up and some had their heads crushed. Several bodies were disembowelled."

Ntaganda was the deputy chief of staff and commander of operations for rebel group the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, the military wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots, during a conflict in the Ituri region.

During the trial, Ntaganda testified in his own defence and maintained his innocence.

His lawyers argued he had sought to maintain discipline among his troops, punishing those that violated rules of war.

They also argued he was a victim himself. Ntaganda grew up in Rwanda as an ethnic Tutsi, facing persecution and eventually being conscripted as a child soldier himself.

© Independent News Service

Independent News Service

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News