Court hears Congo warlord Ntaganda evidence

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2014 6:49 AM

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Judges at the International Criminal Court began hearing arguments Monday about whether to put Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel leader in Congo's unstable eastern region, on trial for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accused Ntaganda, nicknamed "The Terminator" for his ruthlessness, of 13 charges including murder, rape, and persecution and recruiting child soldiers.

Ntaganda's lawyer Marc Desailliers said Monday the prosecution's case "has no foundation."

Ntaganda's alleged crimes took place in 2002-2003 in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo, where he served as a top leader in the Union of Congolese Patriots under Thomas Lubanga.

Lubanga was indicted and arrested in 2006 and in 2012 became the first person to be convicted at the ICC, for conscripting child soldiers. He is appealing a 14-year sentence.

Bensouda described the testimony of one woman from the Lendu tribe, the frequent target of attacks by Union soldiers, who were often from the Hema tribe. He said the woman was raped repeatedly and told "you are not human beings and in three days we will finish you all."

The court also heard about one man who during an attack on his village saw his 14-year-old son hacked to death, his 17-year-old son break his neck while attempting to flee, and his wife die of a heart attack. All his possessions were then seized, leaving him destitute.

Ntaganda was indicted in 2006 but took command of the militia — later renamed M23 — after Lubanga's departure. He was only brought to the court in The Hague, Netherlands, last year after his group splintered and he fled to neighboring Rwanda. He took refuge in the U.S. embassy before being deported.

The court has yet to set a date to decide on Ntaganda's case. Hearings are expected to last several days.