AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A former Congolese rebel commander who started a hunger strike last week to protest the conditions of his detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) told judges on Tuesday he is "ready to die".
Bosco Ntaganda faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed by his troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002-2003.
"I have no possibility to see my wife and children again under normal conditions. This is the reason I have lost all hope. This is why I am ready to die," Ntaganda said in a statement read out by his defense lawyer.
Ntaganda also instructed his lawyer to no longer represent him and cease all legal actions on his behalf. The three-judge panel of judges was considering the statement.
He stopped eating last week to protest restrictions on his phone calls and visitation rights which have been in place since 2014 due to concerns he was trying to interfere with witnesses.
The former Congolese rebel participated in hearings on Tuesday via a video-link from the ICC's detention unit after a medical report Tuesday morning concluded he was not well enough to be transported to the courtroom.
Ntaganda, whose trial began a year ago, started his military career in Rwanda when he joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front during the 1994 genocide. He later joined a branch of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), before surrendering in 2013.
He faces 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity relating to two attacks against the non-Hema population in Congo's Ituri province. The charges include murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.
(Reporting By Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)