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Defense Lawyer Says Ntaganda Not Surprised by 30-Year Sentence

A lawyer for Bosco Ntaganda, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday, has said the former rebel commander was not surprised by the sentence he received.

“Considering the content of the Trial Judgment issued on 8 July 2019, the Sentencing Judgment comes as no surprise to Bosco Ntaganda,” said lead defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon, in a statement issued Friday. He said Ntaganda plans to appeal the sentence.

While the defense is yet to analyze the sentencing judgment in detail, it “is already in a position to express the view that the sentencing judgment contains many errors of law and fact.”

Following his conviction last July on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Ntaganda was handed a 30-year jail sentenced by the ICC’s Trial Chamber VI. No individual has previously been convicted by the ICC for such a large number of crimes. Prior to Ntaganda’s sentencing, the longest sentence handed out by ICC judges was 14 years – to Thomas Lubanga, who was commander-in-chief of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), the group in which Ntaganda served as deputy chief of general staff.

Ntaganda and Lubanga committed these crimes in 2002 and 2003 during an armed conflict in Ituri district in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  Ntaganda is appealing the conviction, alleging procedural errors and violations of his fair trial rights.

Bourgon said Ntaganda’s defense team “expresses the view that neither the trial judgment nor the sentencing judgment reflect the reality of what happened in Ituri” in 2002–2003, “let alone the responsibility of Bosco Ntaganda for these events.” He added that Ntaganda’s lawyers had identified significant errors of law and fact in both judgments, and the team is confident that “Ntaganda and the truth will prevail on appeal.”

According to the sentencing judgment, Ntaganda and fellow perpetrators had a plan to drive out members of the Lendu ethnic community from certain localities of Ituri, to kill civilians, steal their property, and subject them to rape and sexual slavery.  

In handing Ntaganda a lengthy jail time, judges explained the gravity of some of the crimes he was convicted for, including rape and sexual slavery of civilians and female child soldiers who served in the FPLC, as well as murder. They also noted that Ntaganda was convicted of the murder of at least 74 individuals, including a catholic priest that he personally he shot dead.

The highest sentences for Ntaganda’s individual crimes were for murder and attempted murder (30 years) and persecution (30 years). Others were rape of civilians (28 years); conscripting, enlisting, and using children in armed conflict (18 years); rape of female child soldiers (17 years); destroying the adversary’s property (15 years); sexual slavery of female child soldiers (14 years); and intentionally directing attacks against civilians (14 years).

In today’s statement, Bourgon said Ntaganda “is at peace with himself,” and he firmly believes that the manner in which he is portrayed in both the trial judgment and the sentencing judgment does not reflect the truth. The defense says it will file a notice of appeal within 30 days as required by the court’s rules.

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