Bosco Ntaganda shot a priest and gave his bodyguards orders to rape, International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors claimed during the confirmation of charges hearing.
They said the Congolese militia leader personally arrested and detained the priest of Mongbwalu parish and three nuns. Ntaganda then “personally shot and killed the priest” whose name prosecutors did not give.
The alleged murder took place on November 25, 2002 shortly after troops of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) took over the towns of Mongbwalu and Sayo in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The prosecution also claimed that on Mr. Ntaganda’s orders, his bodyguards raped three women who were being held captive in the apartment in Mongbwalu where Mr. Ntaganda was staying. It was not clear whether these three women were the nuns arrested together with the priest.
The evidence being presented by prosecutors is intended to convince judges to take the case against Mr. Ntaganda to trial. He faces 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, allegedly committed while he served as deputy chief of staff of the FPLC.
The prosecution alleges that the FPLC used rape to persecute and terrorize civilians who were not from the Hema ethnic group. Rape was also “aimed at rewarding the troops and keeping their morale high.”
“There was rape at every offensive and also by UPC officers so its occurrence was known to UPC,” said prosecution lawyer Marion Rabanit, referring to the Union of Congolese Patriots, the political wing of the FPLC. “There were no sanctions, no punishment when the victims were non-Hema.”
Among the witnesses lined up to testify for the prosecution is a former insider in the UPC, who said sexual violence was just another weapon that the group used in its armed campaign. He was quoted as saying: “The [victims] were Lendus, they were our enemies, they had to be treated anyhow.”
Ms. Rabanit said when FPLC soldiers raped women, they were aware that they would not be punished for it. “The senior commanders were not interested in the damage done to the civilian population; they considered that it was normal for women to be raped during the war,” she said.
Ms. Rabanit said UPC brigade commander Salumu Mulenda raped a witness, Commander Abelanga was a “serial rapist” while Commander Simba “openly talked about having raped women before killing them in the Kobu massacre.”
“Bosco Ntaganda himself sexually exploited women,” said Ms. Rabanit. “He kept female UPC soldiers and civilians including Lendu women as his women.”
According to the prosecution, before the attack on Mongbwalu, rape by the group’s soldiers was “encouraged, promised, and envisaged” as the UPC considered women to be “spoils of war.”
Prosecutors also detailed pillaging and the killing of hundreds of civilians by militia commanded by Mr. Ntaganda, notably in the Banyali-Kilo region in November and December 2002 and the Walendu-Djatsi region during February and March 2003.
Hendrik van der Werf, another prosecution lawyer, recounted how, in February 2003, the UPC/FPLC, captured and killed up to 92 civilians in Jitchu forest. The soldiers, who were predominantly of Hema origin, torched villages belonging to members of other ethnic groups.
He said these attacks were planned by UPC leader Thomas Lubanga, Mr. Ntaganda, and Floribert Kisembo who was the group’s chief of staff. The planning took place in Mr. Lubanga’s office in the town of Bunia, said Mr. van der Werf. He said Mr. Ntaganda directly participated in combat and gave orders to troops before and during attacks.
The confirmation of charges hearing continues tomorrow with further submissions from the prosecution.