[JURIST] The trial of Bosco Ntaganda [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], a former Congolese military leader also known as “The Terminator,” began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Wednesday. The rebel leader has pleaded innocent to the 18 charges [case information sheet] levied against him, including rape, murder, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual slavery of civilians. He has been accused of killing at least 800 civilians between the years of 2002 and 2003 and keeping girl soldiers as sex slaves. The trial is expected to last for a few months with the anticipation that approximately 80 witness will be called. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
In June of last year the ICC confirmed charges [JURIST report] against Ntaganda. The ICC held a confirmation of charges hearing [JURIST report] in February 2014, reviewing approximately 69,000 pages of evidence. The previous year the ICC postponed [JURIST report] the confirmation of charges hearing in order to give prosecutors more time to prepare their case. The pre-trial chamber concluded that Ntaganda bore individual criminal responsibility for specific attacks as well as war crimes during the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), referring him for trial at a future date. The Congolese general voluntarily turned himself over to the ICC in March 2013 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 in 2012 to DRC President Joseph Kabila and previously in 2011 during an international conference after its previous request in 2010 [JURIST reports].