International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have confirmed 18 charges against Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, who surrendered to the court in March 2013.
If neither the defense nor the prosecution appeals the confirmation decision, the court’s presidency will constitute a chamber to try the former deputy chief of staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).
In a June 9, 2014 ruling, pre-trial judges Ekaterina Trendafilova (presiding), Hans-Peter Kaul, and Cuno Tarfusser found that the FPLC and its political wing known as the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) carried out “widespread and systematic” attacks against the civilian population of Congo’s Ituri province. The attacks, which targeted the non-Hema population particularly the Lendu, Bira, and Nande ethnic groups, were committed between August 6, 2002 and May 27, 2003.
Judges also found that Mr. Ntaganda bears individual criminal responsibility pursuant to different modes of liability, namely: direct perpetration; indirect co-perpetration (ordering, inducing); any other contribution to the commission or attempted commission of crimes; and as a military commander for crimes committed by his subordinates.
As a direct perpetrator, the judges found that there were substantial grounds to believe that Mr. Ntaganda himself committed murder in Mongbwalu where he shot a priest, Boniface Bwanalonga, several times in the head. They said he personally attacked and persecuted civilians, pillaged, and attacked protected objects in Sayo and Mongbwalu.
The evidence also showed that Mr. Ntaganda appropriated a Land Cruiser jeep and other items from Mongbwalu parish, medical equipment and medication from a hospital, audio and video equipment, and items from the church in Sayo.
Judges determined that there were substantial grounds to believe that the FPLC, including Mr. Ntaganda himself, enlisted children under the age of 15 years to take part in active combat. Furthermore, FPLC soldiers committed acts of rape and sexual slavery against child soldiers under the age of 15 years. Girls – one of them aged nine – were repeatedly raped in the group’s training camps.
Confirmation of charges hearings in the case were held last February. According to a statement from the court, approximately 69,000 pages of evidence were disclosed between the parties and submitted to judges for their determination.
The confirmed counts of war crimes against Mr. Ntaganda are murder and attempted murder; attacking civilians; rape; sexual slavery of civilians; pillaging; displacement of civilians; attacking protected objects; and destroying the enemy’s property. Others are rape, sexual slavery, and enlistment and conscription of child soldiers under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
The crimes against humanity charges are murder and attempted murder; rape; sexual slavery; persecution; and forcible transfer of population.
Although the court issued its first warrant of arrest against Mr. Ntaganda in August 2006, he remained at large until he voluntarily surrendered last year when he walked into the U.S. embassy in Rwanda and asked to be transferred to The Hague.
The former UPC leader, Thomas Lubanga, with whom Mr. Ntaganda was initially indicted, was found guilty in 2012 of using child soldiers and sentenced to 14 years in jail. He is appealing his conviction and sentence.