11:47, August 30 78 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-30 11:47:04
I'm a revolutionary, not a criminal, Congolese warlord tells ICC

A notorious Congolese warlord known as the “Terminator” for his alleged brutality has protested his innocence at the close of his trial at the international criminal court, telling judges: “I am a revolutionary, not a criminal.”

Bosco Ntaganda is charged with 13 counts of war crimes and six of crimes against humanity, all allegedly committed in 2002 and 2003 in Ituri in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He told the court he was “at peace with myself … I hope that you now realise that the ‘Terminator’ described by the prosecutor is not me.”

Lawyers have presented their closing arguments against Ntaganda, a tall man with a thin moustache who has replaced his cowboy hats and military fatigues with a dark suit and glasses for his trial in The Hague.

The ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in 2006, for the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The charges against him include murder, rape and sexual slavery; he ordered his men to rape women to keep “morale high” and strike terror into the local population, according to prosecutors.

In her closing arguments, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said: “The crimes were not random, isolated or spontaneous. They were part of a carefully planned, co-ordinated and executed campaign of violence, deliberately targeting the Lendu and Ngiti civilian populations and other non-Hema ethnic groups.”

On Thursday Ntaganda’s lawyers presented a very different character, complaining that the Terminator nickname was “entirely wrong” and that actually Ntaganda was a father figure to his troops.

“The army was a family … The ‘children’ in the family does not mean that they are children,” Ntaganda’s lawyer, Stephane Bourgon, said. “They are the members of the army and military commanders take care of their ‘children’.”

Bourgon said his client “took multiple measures to ensure discipline, prevent crimes and punish perpetrators” and added: “Bosco Ntaganda’s involvement in these events resulted in a lesser number of victims rather than more; he should be acquitted on all counts.”

The charges include crimes committed against Ntaganda’s own troops while he was a commander of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo – the alleged rape of child soldiers in his army. But they do not cover Ntaganda’s involvement in the M23 rebel militia, which took over the lakeside city of Goma in 2012. The M23 was defeated by Congolese and UN forces in late 2013.

Having lost support in his own rebel group and the patronage of Rwanda, Ntaganda turned up at the gates of the US embassy in Kigali on a March morning in 2013 and asked to be handed over to the ICC. The maximum sentence for the crimes he is charged with would be 30 years; the prospect of a jail term served quietly in a European country was preferable to the alternative under Congolese or Rwandan authorities or going on the run, according to some analysts.

Ntaganda’s explanation was that he wanted to “set the record straight”, he told the judges on Thursday. “I truly felt the need to surrender voluntarily and face the charges against me,” he said.

Topics