[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the Congolese government to arrest [press release] Bosco Ntaganda [case materials], a Congolese general wanted [arrest warrant, in French] by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for war crimes. HRW claims that, since January, Ntaganda has been implicated in the assassination of at least eight people, arbitrary arrests of another seven and the abduction and disappearance of at least one more. Ntaganda lives and moves openly in Goma, a city in the eastern bloc of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He gained leadership of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) rebel group in 2009 as a result of a coup against former leader Laurent Nkunda [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Ntaganda became a general of the Congolese army after promising to integrate the rebel forces into the Congolese troops. As a result, the government has refused to execute the ICC arrest warrant against him, claiming that his presence is needed in order to maintain peace withing the troops. HRW senior researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg chided the Congolese government’s actions stating:
Ntaganda should be arrested and made to answer for his crimes, rather than being allowed to walk freely in Goma. He is a threat to the people of eastern Congo and is making a mockery of the Congolese government’s policy of zero tolerance for human rights abuses. … [The Congolese government] claims that Ntaganda is necessary for the peace process, but Ntaganda’s brutal targeting of opponents and blatant disregard for Congolese law and basic human rights is no way to achieve peace.
HRW contends that Ntanganda is targeting supporters of Nkunda. The former leader was subsequently arrested and imprisoned without charge after the 2009 coup, creating a division of loyalty within the CNDP. Several supporters of Nkunda objected to the new leadership, but still accepted positions in the Congolese army. HRW also stated that civilians and activists have also been exposed to human rights violations by intimidation and arbitrary arrests.
The warrant for Ntaganda’s arrest was originally issued in 2006 but was not made public by the ICC [JURIST report] until 2008. 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.