International Criminal Court brings charges against Congo warlord
The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor on Monday sought new war crimes charges against Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda and another notorious Democratic Republic of Congo warlord.
Ntaganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura are two of the “most dangerous” men in a region where millions have been killed in the past 20 years, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in announcing the charges.
Ntaganda, who is now leading a band of army mutineers, has been wanted by the ICC since 2006 for forcing children into his private army.
Moreno-Ocampo said he wanted to add charges of crimes against humanity for murder, ethnic persecution, rape and sexual slavery. He also sought war crimes charges for “intentional attacks” against civilians that led to murder, rape, sexual slavery and pillaging.
For Mudacumura, military commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia, the prosecutor is seeking five counts of crimes against humanity — murder, inhumane acts, rape and torture — and nine war crimes charges.
An ICC tribunal will decide whether to allow the warrants.
“We are pretty confident in our evidence,” Moreno-Ocampo told a press conference at the UN headquarters. But he added that the action aimed to contribute to “peace and security” in the Great Lakes region which has seen decades of strife since the Rwanda genocide of 2004.
Ntaganda, known as “The Terminator” because of his brutal tactics, is accused of leading army mutineers who have attacked government forces in eastern DR Congo in recent weeks. The government refused to order Ntaganda’s arrest while he served as an army general.
Ntaganda and other mutineers were integrated into the national army under a 2009 peace deal with rebels but defected again after complaining about the conditions.
After the Rwanda genocide, militia groups poured over the border into eastern DR Congo, which has since become a near-permanent battleground between rival groups for control of rich mineral resources.
Ntaganda was a close associate of Thomas Lubanga, who in March became the first person to be convicted by the ICC, which is based in The Hague.
The ICC tribunal found Lubanga guilty of using child soldiers during a conflict in the Ituri region of eastern DR Congo in which some 60,000 people lost their lives between 1999 and 2003.
The new crimes against Ntaganda date from the same conflict in 2002 and 2003 when children as young as nine were forced into militia armies and girls were subjected to rape and sexual violence.
Ntaganda later set up the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), which has been at the heart of the mineral wars. But he was made a general in the DR Congo army as part of the 2009 deal with the government.
Ntaganda led mutineers who turned against the army last year.
“His recent desertion,” said Moreno-Ocampo, “has shown once again that he cannot be trusted.”
Mudacumura was part of the Rwandan army during the genocide and moved into DR Congo and became a supreme commander of the FDLR alongside Callixte Mbarushimana, who is also on the run, and Ignace Murwanashyaka, who is now on trial in Germany.
The charges against Mudacumura date from 2009 and 2010, Moreno-Ocampo said. FDLR fighters surrounded villages in North and South Kivu provinces, which then surrendered — only for the inhabitants to be massacred or raped, according to the prosecutor and rights groups.
“The Kivu provinces are not a prize to be shared between” Ntaganda and Mudacumura, said Moreno-Ocampo. “It is a place where people deserve to live in peace, where crimes should be punished and impunity should be fought.”
[Democratic Republic of Congo rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, pictured in 2009. AFP Photo/Lionel Healing]