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Judges to Hear Arguments on Ntaganda’s Sentence

This week, International Criminal Court (ICC) judges will hear arguments from the prosecution, victims’ lawyers, and the defense on the sentence that former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda should receive. The sentencing hearing will commence on Tuesday, September 17.

Trial Chamber VI convicted Ntaganda, 45, last July of direct perpetration of three crimes in addition to being an indirect co-perpetrator on 15 other crimes. This is the highest amount charges any defendant before the ICC has been convicted of.

At the sentencing hearing, the defense will call three witnesses to provide mitigating evidence on behalf of Ntaganda. They will testify about Ntaganda’s efforts to bring about ethnic reconciliation and peace; his support for demobilization of child soldiers; and his attitude towards women, including female fighters in the militia he commanded. Judges have also allowed the prosecution to submit the prior recorded testimony of two witnesses, while the defense has been permitted to submit the evidence of three witnesses.

The prosecution is expected to ask judges to hand Ntaganda the maximum penalty permissible by the Rome Statute – a prison sentence of 30 years plus a monetary fine – given the numerous convictions, the seriousness of the crimes convicted, and the nature of Ntaganda’s involvement, which judges found to have included direct perpetration.

Judges found Ntaganda guilty for crimes committed in eastern Congo during 2002 and 2003, while he served as the deputy chief of staff of a rebel group known as the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). Thomas Lubanga, who was commander-in-chief of the group, as well as president of its political arm known as the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), became the first person to be tried and convicted by the ICC. He was convicted in 2012 as a co-perpetrator for the war crimes of conscripting, enlisting, and actively using children under the age of 15 years in armed conflict. He is serving a 14-year prison sentence.

In the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba, who had been convicted on five counts of rape, murder, and pillaging, the prosecution sought a 25-year jail term. Bemba was sentenced to 18 years, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. Malian Islamist leader Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi is so far the only person to have been convicted on his own guilty plea. He was handed a nine-year prison sentence over his conviction on the single war crime of destroying historic and religious monuments.

Germain Katanga, who was sentenced over crimes also committed in eastern Congo, received a 12-year prison sentence, which was subsequently reduced by three years and eight months.

Article 78(1) of the court’s statute provides that in determining the sentence, the court shall take into account such factors as the gravity of the crime and the individual circumstances of the convicted person. Article 78(2) states, in imposing a sentence of imprisonment, the court shall deduct the time, if any, previously spent in detention in accordance with an order of the court.

In determining the appropriate sentence, Rule 145 requires the court to consider and balance numerous factors, including the culpability and degree of participation of the convicted person, the circumstances of the person and the crimes, the harm caused to the victims and their families, and appropriate aggravating and mitigating factors.

More background on Ntaganda’s trial and conviction can be found here.

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