Warlord pleads not guilty at ICC Former warlord Bosco Ntaganda

THE HAGUE. — Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda pleaded “not guilty” yesterday to crimes including the rape of child soldiers in a campaign of pillage and murder in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province in the early 2000s. The Rwandan-born Ntaganda is accused by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of conspiring to expand the power of the Hema ethnic group and seize the province’s vast oil, diamond and gold wealth for himself.

He faces 18 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in all, including murder, rape, pillage and persecution, under a doctrine of international law that allows him to be charged personally with offences committed by forces under his command.

One alleged co-conspirator is Thomas Lubanga, who is serving a 14-year prison sentence after becoming the court’s first convicted defendant in 2012.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges that fighters from Ntaganda’s Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) had lured ethnic Lendus occupying the land they wanted to purported peace talks in order to capture and kill them.

“Bosco Ntaganda was the UPC’s highest commander, in charge of operations and organisation,” she told the court, adding that he had allowed the slaughter to go unpunished.

One witness found the bodies of his own wife and children among victims of the slaughter in a banana field. Their throats had been slit and his infant daughter’s skull was staved in. They were just five of an estimated 5 000 civilians killed during the 2002-03 campaign. Bensouda said Ntaganda had praised the field commander responsible as “a real man”. — AFP.

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