Congolese militiaman Bosco Ntaganda convicted of crimes against humanity

Congolese militiaman Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on 8 July 2019.
Congolese militiaman Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on 8 July 2019. Eva Plevier / REUTERS

Eighteen times guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Bosco Ntaganda listened without blinking to the verdict on Monday, July 8, by the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Formerly second in command of the military wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), one of the many militias active in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002 and 2003, the militiaman of Rwandan origin has been convicted of murder, attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, attacks on civilians, forcible transfer of population, looting, recruitment of children under 15 and attacks on protected property. A long list of crimes read at the hearing by the presiding judge, Robert Fremr, under the grave gaze of the convict.

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For the judges, the conduct of the militia " was the expected result of a preconceived strategy targeting the civilian population ". Opened in September 2015, the trial was held mostly in camera, but seventy-one witnesses appeared in The Hague: former members of the militia repented, experts and survivors of the various massacres of which that intervened in the city of Kobu. The prosecutor showed the court violent images of bodies of women, men, children and even babies, found in a banana plantation, some naked, others with their hands tied or disfigured by the attackers. Forty-nine people were killed, but a woman, left for dead, came to testify before the judges during an in camera hearing.

Milician from the age of 17

Judges also made extensive reference to the taking of Mongbwalu in November 2002, described by witnesses as " the city of gold diggers ". During " the raking operation During the hearings, the inhabitants were kidnapped, intimidated, killed, their belongings plundered by the soldiers, from the mattresses to the roofs of the houses. According to numerous reports, the United Nations and the NGO Global Witness, Bosco Ntaganda had personally enriched himself by also plundering the basements of this rich region of the eastern Congolese, site of gold mines, coltan, diamond.

Some of the facts mentioned by the prosecutor concerning crimes committed in several villages in the region were not retained by the judges because of insufficient evidence. The judges only scratched the surface of the responsibilities of the states of the region in the wars of eastern Congo, saying that the role of Uganda and then Rwanda in supporting this militia did not qualify the conflict as a conflict. 'international.

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At 45, the "Terminator", so nicknamed for the violence of his war, has a long career as a militiaman, started when he joined the rebellion of the Rwandan Patriotic Army at the age of 17 years. He never stopped waging war, creating or emargating within different militias that crisscross eastern Congolese. But the accusations of the Court only related to the crimes of 2002 and 2003 and notably ignore his responsibilities at the head of the M-23 (Movement of March 23), a rebellion supported by Rwanda in the provinces of Kivu , east of the DRC.

2,129 victims represented

Despite accusations from the ICC, the militia was spending quiet days there. But the protests of the UN, which had denounced Kigali's responsibility for the existence of the militia, will be worth it to be finally let go by his Rwandan godfather. In March 2013, leaving the bush, he delivered himself at the US embassy in Kigali, before being sent to The Hague. In the opinion of experts and natives of the region, Bosco Ntaganda would have come as a soldier to the ICC.

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The sentence will only be issued in the coming months, but Bosco Ntaganda faces up to 30 years in prison. For their part, his lawyers have thirty days to decide whether to appeal this verdict. It opens the door to future requests for repairs. The conviction now allows the 2,129 victims, who were represented by lawyers in this trial, to initiate the procedure for requesting compensation. So far, the Court has not shone by its effectiveness on this issue. The victims of Thomas Lubanga, the former head of the Union of Congolese Patriots convicted and sentenced to fourteen years in prison in 2012, still have not seen the color of these reparations.

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