Congolese warlord gets 30 years for war crimes

Bosco Ntaganda, a former militia chief in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was sentenced to 30 years in jail for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), above, on Thursday.

Ntaganda, 45, also known as the ‘Terminator’, was convicted on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in July.

The ICC also found him guilty of rape, sexual slavery and murder of people including some of the child soldiers he recruited.

Most of the crimes were committed when he was leading the military wing of the political group Union of Congolese Patriots in Ituri province between 2002 and 2003.

Throughout the trial, the Rwanda-born Ntaganda maintained that he was a revolutionary and not a criminal.

However, the presiding judge Robert Fremr said at the conviction that many people were mercilessly killed by Ntaganda’s men in Ituri province. After the operation, bodies of men, women and children — some naked and some with hands tied up or heads crushed — were found lying in banana fields.

Human Rights Watch’s deputy Africa director Ida Sawyersaid Thursday’s court ruling sends a message towar criminals and serious abusers of human rights that they will be held to account even years after their crime.

Ntaganda had been evading arrest since 2006 when an arrest warrant was issued for him. He finally surrendered to the US embassy in Rwanda’s capital Kigali in March 2013. The time he spent in detention since then will be deducted from the sentence.

Ntaganda did not show any emotion when the verdict was pronounced.  He has 30 days to appeal the ruling.

The ruling against Ntaganda is significant as it is the longest jail term awarded by ICC to a war criminal.

He may be the first to be convicted by the court for using his own soldiers as sex slaves.