Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been sentenced by the International Criminal Court to 30 years in prison after being convicted of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, murder, sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers.
Ntaganda is the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery by the ICC and the fourth person overall that the institution has sent to prison since its inception in 2002. He is also the first person to voluntarily surrender to the ICC. In 2013, Ntaganda went to the United States embassy in Kigali, Rwanda and asked to be sent the Hague in the Netherlands where the court is located.
Ntaganda was a rebel leader in the Ituri region in northeastern Congo between 2002 and 2003 before becoming a high-ranking member of the Union of Congolese Patriots, another rebel group that has a military wing known as the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. In the court, Judge Robert Fremr stated that Ntaganda was a key leader who gave orders to target and kill citizens. More than 60,000 people have been killed since 1999 when violence in the region first erupted between rival militia groups fighting over mineral resources. Ntaganda is responsible for carrying out orders to massacre 49 people, including babies and children, in a banana field outside of the village Kobu. He is also responsible for the recruiting of child soldiers under the age of 15, as well as the rape and sexual slavery of underage girls.
Foreign aid groups have called the conflicts in the Congo some of the deadliest in the world since World War II. Even though the country’s civil war officially ended in 2003, fighting between militia groups continues to be the norm. According to the United Nations, 4.5 million Congolese people are displaced because of the conflicts.
Some activists have qualms about the ICC’s involvement in Ntaganda’s case, saying that the court does not fully comprehend the amount of trauma that the victims have faced and how Ntaganda’s violence has affected the whole country. Placide Nzilamba, a Congolese human rights activist, stated that “the ICC is too far and disconnected from victims and villages.” He emphasized the need for the Democratic Republic of Congo to establish a proper judicial system to hold the rebel leaders accountable.
The ICC has also been criticized because all five of the men who have been convicted under the court’s jurisdiction have been African, including Thomas Lubanga, a leader in the FPLC who Ntaganda served under. Critics have accused the court of unfairly targeting Africans and ignoring human rights abuses in other parts of the world.
Sources: BBC 11/7/19; the Washington Post 11/7/19; Aljazeera 11/7/19