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Congo war crimes suspect denies charges in first appearance before ICC

Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda [BBC profile] denied charges at his first appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Tuesday. Ntaganda is accused of 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, pillage, using child soldiers and other crimes. After a court official read out the charges [Guardian report], Ntaganda said he pleaded not guilty. Members of the court cut him off and told him that he did not have to enter a plea at the hearing. The evidence against Ntaganda will be weighed in a subsequent hearing [press release] slated for September 23.

Last week the Congolese general voluntarily turned himself over to the ICC following his surrender to a US embassy [JURIST reports] in Rwanda, marking the first time a wanted person has voluntarily surrendered to the ICC. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] had called for Ntaganda's arrest on three separate occasions: most recently a direct appeal in 2012 to Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila, and previously in 2011 during an international conference after its first request in 2010 [JURIST reports]. Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [ICC information sheet] is a landmark case for the ICC because Lubanga was the first prisoner taken into custody and delivered [JURIST reports] to the international criminal tribunal in The Hague. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] in July 2009 after presenting 22 weeks of testimony.

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