20 March 2013
Brussels – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) welcomes the news of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda’s surrender the day before yesterday at the United States embassy in Rwanda. Subject of an international arrest warrant, Ntaganda has been on the run since 2006. ASF hopes that following this event, the voices of the victims of crimes Ntaganda is accused of having committed will be heard before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. This event marks one more step forward in the fight against the impunity of the perpetrators of massive human rights violations in DR Congo and elsewhere.
The surrender of Bosco Ntaganda takes in place in the context of the destabilization of Eastern DR Congo where the M23 – the rebel movement of which he was one of the pillars – split, leading one part to flee to Rwanda. The tensions in this region afflict an extremely vulnerable and terrorized civilian population.
Allied with Thomas Lubanga, who was himself sentenced by the International Criminal Court last year for recruiting child soldiers, ex-general Bosco Ntaganda is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape and sexual slavery, ethnic persecution and looting. These crimes were committed in Ituri between September 2002 and September 2003.
The transfer of Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court in The Hague depends on the willingness of the United States to cooperate. Neither Rwanda nor the United States has ratified the Rome Statute, and therefore have no obligation to cooperate with the Court.
“We hope that the American authorities will cooperate with the Court as they did in other cases handled by the Court concerning crimes committed in Libya, Darfur and Ivory Coast,” says Jean-Philippe Kot, ASF expert in international criminal justice. “International criminal justice is a collective responsibility. Beyond this particular case, it is a strong signal of the importance of cooperation of States with the Court and the strengthening of the Rome Statute system.”
ASF has been working in DR Congo since 2002, carrying out projects that aim to increase access to justice for victims of international crimes and other violations of human rights. Should Bosco Ntaganda be brought before the Court, ASF teams will provide legal assistance to victims of crimes committed by rebels under the command of Ntaganda. “This will allow these people, who often live in very remote villages, to participate in the proceedings before the Court and also, ultimately, to obtain redress,” explains Jean-Philippe Kot.
According to the arrest warrant issued by the Court, the troops led by Bosco Ntaganda are responsible for the deaths of at least 500 people, all civilians, as well as for the rapes of many people.
Featured Image: Congolese refugees board a truck at Bunagana on the Uganda-DRC border heading to Nyakabande transit centre in western Uganda’s Kisoro District, 19 May 2012. Hundreds of Congolese refugees (30,000-40,000 refugee) have camped at this border over the on-going fighting between Government troops and “mutineers” of Gen. Bosco Ntaganda © Samuel Okiror/IRIN