ICC unseals arrest warrant for Congo militia leader suspected of enlisting child soldiers News
ICC unseals arrest warrant for Congo militia leader suspected of enlisting child soldiers

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court [official website] on Tuesday made public an arrest warrant [PDF text, in French] for Bosco Ntaganda, who is accused of committing war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [ICC materials]. The arrest warrant was issued in August 2006, but an ICC pre-trial chamber unsealed the warrant [decision, PDF] on Monday. According to an ICC press release [text]:

[Ntaganda] is alleged to have committed war crimes of enlistment and conscription of children under the age of 15 and of using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from July 2002 until December 2003. …

The Chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that members of the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC) repeatedly carried out, from July 2002 to December 2003, acts of enlistment, conscription and active participation in hostilities of children under the age of fifteen, who were trained in the FPLC training camps of Bule, Cantrale, Mandro, Rwampara, Irumu, Bogoro and Sota.

The Chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Ntaganda, as former Deputy Chief of General Staff for Military Operations of the FPLC, had during the mentioned period of time, de jure and de facto authority over the FPLC training camp commanders and used his authority to actively implement the policy adopted at a higher level of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC)/FPLC of enlisting, conscripting and using children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities.

The arrest warrant was issued under seal because "public knowledge of the proceedings in this case might result in Bosco Ntaganda hiding, fleeing, and/or obstructing or endangering the investigations or the proceedings of the Court," but ICC judges determined that those circumstances have since changed.

In a statement [text] released by the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for Ntaganda's arrest and surrender to the court:

Bosco NTAGANDA is at large and allegedly continues to be implicated in the commission of crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is reported to have moved from the District of Ituri to the Province of North Kivu, into the Masisi area, where he has reportedly taken the position of Chief of Staff within the political-military group CNDP. The CNDP is a group under the command of Laurent NKUNDA.

The CNDP is one of the groups against which there are credible reports of serious crimes committed in the two Kivu provinces – including sexual crimes of unspeakable cruelty – as well as the FDLR forces, local armed groups and individual members of the regular army.

"Bosco NTAGANDA committed crimes in Ituri; he is today in the Kivus. He must be arrested. Like all the other indicted criminals in Uganda and in the Sudan, he must be stopped if we want to break the system of violence. For such criminals, there must be no escape. Then peace will have a chance. Then victims will have hope" said the Prosecutor.

Today, it is for the relevant authorities in the DRC, and other countries as appropriate, with the support of the international community, to arrest him and facilitate his surrender to the ICC.

As part of the ICC's investigation into the situation in the DRC, cases have been initiated against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui [ICC materials]. Lubanga [BBC profile], leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese militia, became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into ICC custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006. His trial is scheduled to begin in June [JURIST report]. The case against Katanga and Chui is still in a preliminary stage; a hearing to confirm the charges against them was delayed [decision, PDF; press release] on Monday to allow the defense more time to prepare. The hearing will take place at the end of June.