Timeline

September 8, 2000

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signs the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

April 11, 2002

The DRC ratifies the Rome Statute of the ICC.

June 2004

After a referral from Congolese president Joseph Kabila, the ICC opens an investigation into the situation in the DRC.

January 12, 2006

The prosecution applies for its first warrant of arrest against Bosco Ntaganda. The prosecution charged the military leader with war crimes of recruiting and using child soldiers in active combat in 2002 and 2003 in the Ituri district.

August 22, 2006

The ICC issued a sealed arrest warrant for Ntaganda. The arrest warrant remained under seal because, according to the court, “public knowledge of the proceedings in the case might result in Bosco Ntaganda hiding, fleeing, and/or obstructing or endangering the investigations or the proceedings of the court.”

April 28, 2008

The ICC unsealed the arrest warrant for Ntaganda, after determining that “the circumstances that led to the sealing have changed,” that unsealing the arrest warrant would “not endanger the witnesses of the DRC cases” and that it was “the right moment” to make the warrant public.

The unsealed warrant revealed that the chamber found there were reasonable grounds to believe that Ntaganda had de jure and de facto authority over the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) in its practice of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers and that Ntaganda had taken part directly in attacks in which FPLC soldiers under the age of 15 actively participated.

January 2009

Backed by Rwanda, Ntaganda overthrows Laurent Nkunda and takes over leadership of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), an armed militia group.

March 23, 2009

The CNDP and the Congolese government sign a peace agreement, which, in part, facilitates Ntaganda’s integration into the Congolese army.

April 4, 2012

Citing poor conditions in the army and the Congolese government’s unwillingness to implement the March 23, 2009 peace deal, Ntaganda and a group of Congolese soldiers mutiny to form M23. International human rights groups allege that M23 is responsible for widespread war crimes, including summary executions, rapes, and the forced recruitment of children.

March 14, 2012

Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the ICC, is found guilty of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the FPLC and using them actively in armed conflict. He is sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

May 14, 2012

The prosecution requests a second arrest warrant for Ntaganda for additional crimes committed in the Ituri region.

July 13, 2012

The ICC issues its second arrest warrant for Ntaganda. The expanded charges include the crimes against humanity of murder; persecution based on ethnic grounds; and rape and sexual slavery. The additional war crimes include intentional attacks against civilians; murder; rape and sexual slavery; and pillaging. The charges all relate to crimes alleged to have taken place in the Ituri region between 2002 and 2003.

March 18, 2013

Ntaganda surrenders himself at the U.S. embassy in Kigali, Rwanda and asks to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague. Ntaganda’s surrender to the court on March 22 was the first time an accused voluntarily submitted himself to the ICC.

March 26, 2013

Ntaganda appears for the first time before an ICC judge who schedules the confirmation of charges hearing for September 23, 2013.

June 17, 2013

Pre-Trial Chamber II postpones the confirmation of charges hearing to February 10, 2014, after the prosecution requested additional time to ensure the protection of witnesses and effective disclosure of evidence to the defense. Acknowledging that the case had been dormant for several years, the single judge acting for the chamber noted, “Where the suspect is evading justice for many years, it is neither possible nor reasonable to impose on the Prosecutor a permanent stand-by availability of the teams for years.”

February 10-14, 2014

Ntaganda appears for his confirmation of charges hearing at the ICC. During the five-day hearing, the Office of the Prosecutor and the defense presented evidence to Pre-Trial Chamber II.

June 9, 2014

The Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC unanimously confirms 18 charges against Ntaganda for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

July 16, 2014

ICC pre-trial chamber Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova authorizes lead defense lawyer, Marc Desalliers, to step down from the case. On July 14, 2014, Desalliers applied to withdraw, citing irreconcilable views with Ntaganda on the conduct of his defense.

August 15, 2014

Stéphane Bourgon is appointed as the new lead defense counsel representing Ntaganda.

October 9, 2014

Trial Chamber VI sets the start date for the trial of Ntaganda as June 2, 2015.

March 19, 2015

Trial Chamber VI recommends to the ICC Presidency that opening statements of the trial be held in situ in Bunia, DRC. The recommendation was in the interest of the court bringing its judicial work closer to those most affected by the crimes Ntaganda is charged with.

April 22, 2015

Trial Chamber VI judges postpone the trial opening to July 2015 to allow for additional time for the ICC Registry to prepare for the possibility of holding opening statements in Bunia.

June 15, 2015

The ICC Presidency declines the trial chamber’s recommendation to hold opening statements of the trial in Bunia, DRC. Among the reasons cited by the Presidency for not holding the trial in situ are the security in Bunia, the safety of witnesses and victims, and high costs.

September 2, 2015

The trial of Bosco Ntaganda commences at the seat of the court in The Hague.

April 20, 2016

Luc Boutin becomes the second defense lawyer to step down from representing Ntaganda at the ICC. Boutin cites personal reasons for the resignation, but no details are made public.

July 15, 2016

Judges direct the prosecution to reduce the number of witnesses it intends to call to testify against Ntaganda. According to Presiding Judge Robert Fremr, the chamber expects the prosecution to complete presenting its evidence during the “first couple of months” of 2017. The following month, while maintaining its list of 89 witnesses, the prosecution moved to make its case shorter by reducing the total time estimate for examining and cross-examining its remaining witnesses by 65 hours.

September 7, 2016

Ntaganda goes on hunger strike and refuses to attend his trial to show his dissatisfaction with an order by judges to maintain restrictions imposed on his communications and contacts. Whereas judges initially ordered that Ntaganda must attend proceedings, hearings stalled when court officials were unable to transport him to the courtroom on medical grounds, and he maintained his refusal to authorize his lawyers to represent him in his absence. Hearings continued for a short while under a protocol established by the judges, whereby Ntaganda’s lawyer represented his interests in his absence.

September 21, 2016

Ntaganda ends his hunger strike and gave defense lawyers mandate to represent him after court officials arranged for his wife to visit him for eight days, in conditions he deemed acceptable.

November 7, 2016

In a notice, the prosecution discloses to the defense evidence alleging that Ntaganda was involved in a “broad scheme to pervert the course of justice, including by coaching potential defense witnesses, obstructing prosecution investigations and interfering with prosecution witnesses.”

November 14, 2016

In response to the witness tampering allegations against Ntaganda, the defense asks judges to stay proceedings to give them time to analyze the disclosed information to ensure all future cross-examinations were conducted in light of the prosecution’s disclosure and to make submissions on the impact of the witness bribery investigation on the fairness of the trial. Judges reject the defense application two days later.

January 4, 2017

Judges affirm that the ICC can try Ntaganda over rape and sexual slavery of child soldiers in the UPC by commanders and soldiers in the same militia group.  Ntaganda had contested the jurisdiction of the court to try him on those charges, arguing that under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, war crimes may not be committed by members of an armed force against members of the same armed force.

February 8, 2017

Defense lawyers request judges to make a judicial site visit to locations where Ntaganda and his troops allegedly committed crimes. They ask that the visit takes place before the start of the defense case in order to allow judges to gain knowledge of locations mentioned by prosecution witnesses “but which remain vague and unfamiliar” and yet it was essential to judges’ understanding of the evidence to be presented by the defense.

February 24, 2017

Judges decline Ntaganda’s request for a judicial site visit to Congo.

March 2-3, 2017

Five victims participating in the case present their views and concerns to the court.

March 20, 2017

Ntaganda’s lawyers seek another stay of proceedings citing abuse of court process by the Office of the Prosecutor after it accessed recordings of the accused’s conversations including information on defense strategy. The request was dismissed on April 28, 2017.

March 29, 2017

Prosecution formally notifies the court of the closure of its case-in-chief against Ntaganda.

April 10-13, 2017

Three additional victims participating in the case present their view and concerns to the court.

May 28, 2017

The presentation of defense evidence commences

June 14, 2017

Ntaganda takes the witness stand in his own defense

June 5, 2017

The appeals chamber affirms that the ICC can try Ntaganda over rape of child soldiers.

December 28, 2017

In an order providing directions related to closing briefs and statements, judges indicate that they are considering hearing closing statements in Ntaganda’s trial either in the Democratic Republic of Congo or at a location nearby.

February 19, 2018

After two and a half years of continually pushing for the removal of restrictions on his communications, trial judges finally lift restrictions on Ntaganda’s communications and visits.

February 23, 2018

The defense formally closes its presentation of evidence.

March 16, 2018

Trial Chamber VI formally closes the presentation of evidence in the case against Ntaganda.

In the same decision, judges do not recommend holding closing arguments in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the security situation in the eastern part of the country. The judges did not rule out holding certain other future hearings in situ, if deemed “appropriate and feasible.”