The judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Thursday sentenced former Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda to 30 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the heaviest sentence ever handed down by the jurisdiction based in The Hague.
Nicknamed « Terminator », Ntaganda was convicted in July of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual crimes, massacres, persecutions and forcible transfer of the civilian population in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the beginning of the 2000’s.
Citing « multiple crimes », Judge Robert Fremr said at a hearing that the sentence imposed on Mr. Ntaganda, now aged 46, « is thus set at 30 years imprisonment ».
« Murders have been committed on a large scale, » said Fremr, adding that the judges had taken into account the « special cruelty » of certain crimes committed by Ntaganda.
The judges imposed the maximum sentence allowed by the ICC in terms of the number of years, but found that his crimes did not warrant a life sentence for the most serious offenses.
Ntaganda, dressed in a blue suit and red tie, remained impassive when reading the judgment.
A spokesman for the ICC confirmed that this was the heaviest sentence ever issued by the court, set up in 2002 to try the worst atrocities in the world.
This summer, the judges described his role in the crimes committed by his troops in 2002 and 2003 in Ituri, in northeastern DRC, as determining.
According to NGOs, more than 60,000 people have lost their lives since the violence erupted in 1999 in this volatile and mineral-rich region.
Detained since 2013 in The Hague, Ntaganda has already appealed the decision handed down by the judges this summer. He may also appeal the verdict of the judges regarding the sentence of imprisonment.
The former general of the Congolese army, which had the reputation of being a charismatic leader, has always ensured to be a « revolutionary » and not a criminal, rejecting his nickname « Terminator ». The judges, however, found him guilty of executing a priest with his own hands.
ICC judges heard separate victims and witnesses in September to determine the prison sentence, Fremr said.
Ntaganda played a central role in planning the operations of the Union of Congolese Patriots and his armed wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), had hammered the charge in the final phase of his trial, which opened in September 2015.
Fighters loyal to him perpetrated atrocities such as the massacre in a banana field of several villagers, in which at least 49 people, including children and babies, were disemboweled or smashed their heads.
The Congolese was also found guilty of rape and sexual slavery of minors, as well as the enlistment of child soldiers under 15 years of age.
Born in Rwanda, Ntaganda, from a Tutsi family, made his weapons with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
General of the Congolese army from 2007 to 2012, he later became one of the founding members of the M23 rebel group, which was finally defeated by the Congolese government forces in 2013.
As a result of dissension and fighting within the movement, Ntaganda is forced to flee to Rwanda and takes refuge at the US embassy in Kigali, from where he will request his transfer to the ICC, an unprecedented initiative in the area. history of the jurisdiction.
He is one of five Congolese warlords to have been brought before the Court. In March 2012, the ICC sentenced Thomas Lubanga, former head of Ntaganda in the FPLC, to 14 years in prison.