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ICC prosecutors allege Congo war crimes suspect used child soldiers

The Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] on Monday alleged that Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda [BBC profile] was instrumental in organizing and ordering militias of "child soldiers" to attack civilians. Ntaganda is accused of 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, pillage, using child soldiers and other crimes. Reports indicate Ntaganda directed the attacks [Reuters report] against various ethnic groups, including the Lendu population, in an attempt to force the groups out of the Ituri region between September 2002 and 2003. In March, after a court official read out the charges, Ntaganda said he pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. Members of the court cut him off and told him that he did not have to enter a plea at the hearing.

In June the ICC postponed [JURIST report] the confirmation of charges hearing for Ntaganda in order to give prosecutors more time to prepare their case. The Congolese general voluntarily turned himself over to the ICC in March 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 had called for Ntaganda's arrest on multiple occasions: most recently a direct appeal last year 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].

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