Bosco Ntaganda, the Rwandan born warlord nicknamed the Terminator has been handed the punishment of 30 years in prison by the International Criminal Court for mass murder, rape, and abduction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Thursday, November 07. It is the longest sentence the ICC has ever given out.
DRC’s former military chief of staff of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) was found guilty in July on 18 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for acts committed when he was a key militia leader in DRC’s restive Ituri province in 2002 and 2003.
The atrocities included a mass killing at a village where people, including children and babies, were “disemboweled or had their heads smashed in”, the court said.
Ntaganda was also found responsible for the rape and sexual slavery of underage girls, for recruiting troops under the age of 15 and for personally killing a Roman Catholic priest.
The conviction for sexual slavery is the first in the ICC’s history.
Prosecutors focused on two specific attacks involving Ntaganda’s militia, one in late 2002 and another early in 2003.
Ntaganda was also implicated in violence in 2008 that led to the deaths of at least 150 people, and he was a founding member of the M23 rebel group, which was eventually defeated by Congolese government forces in 2013 in bloody battles around the city of Goma, in North Kivu province.
The punishment handed to Ntaganda, 46, was welcomed by human rights activists.
Ida Sawyer, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division, said the sentence sent a strong message that even people considered untouchable might one day be held to account. “While his victims’ pain cannot be erased they can take some comfort in seeing justice prevail,” Sawyer said.
Anneke Van Woudenberg, executive director of the corporate watchdog Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) said ,Ntaganda was a brutal warlord who led from the front, often killing, raping and torturing civilians himself.
“I interviewed hundreds of victims of the brutal crimes in Ituri whose lives were shattered. I hope that today they will have a small measure of relief knowing that Ntaganda will be behind bars for a very long time,” Van Wouderberg said.
Ntaganda, born in Kinigi, Rwanda, had his first taste of combat in Uganda, where he joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1990 at the age of 17 and fought alongside Paul Kagame to overthrow Rwanda’s genocidal regime in 1994.
The first suspect ever to voluntarily surrender to the ICC, Ntaganda walked into the US embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, six years ago and asked to be sent to the court, based in the Netherlands.
Experts believe he gave himself up because he feared assassination after the collapse of the M23 movement, a rebel militia group which Ntaganda was accused of leading.
The time Ntaganda had spent in detention at the ICC from 2013 would be deducted from the sentence, the court said in a statement. (Source: The Guardian)