International Criminal Court calls for arrest of Congolese militia leader

International Criminal Court calls for arrest of Congolese militia leader

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) has called for the arrest of a militia leader accused of forcibly enlisting children as soldiers to fight in the volatile, resource-rich Ituri district in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from July 2002 until the end of 2003.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has called for the arrest of a militia leader accused of forcibly enlisting children as soldiers to fight in the volatile, resource-rich Ituri district in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from July 2002 until the end of 2003.

The ICC’s pre-trial chamber yesterday published an arrest warrant for Bosco Ntaganda, currently alleged to be chief of staff of the militia known as the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), which has been active in Ituri and other parts of eastern DRC.

The warrant was first issued in August 2006, but remained secret until prosecutors this week asked the pre-trial chamber to unseal it.

Prosecutors said Mr. Ntaganda is a former associate of the militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who in June is scheduled to become the first person to go on trial at the ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court.

“Today, he [Mr. Ntaganda] is active in the Kivus,” prosecutors said in a statement to the media released today. “We count on all concerned States authorities and actors to contribute to his arrest and surrender him to the Court.”

Mr. Ntaganda is accused of playing a central role in enlisting and conscripting children aged below 15 into the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (FPLC), another militia group, and of using those children in active hostilities in 2002-03.

Prosecutors said Mr. Ntaganda remains at large in the Kivus and continues to be implicated in crimes committed in the DRC.

“He must be arrested. Like all the other indicted criminals in Uganda and the Sudan, he must be stopped if we want to break the system of violence. For such criminals, there must be no escape. Then peace will have a chance. Then victims will have hope.”

The CNDP, a political-military group under the command of Laurent Nkunda, a former general with the Congolese national forces, is one of several groups facing “credible reports,” prosecutors say, of serious crimes, “including sexual crimes of unspeakable cruelty.”

Deadly violence involving militias and Government forces has continued to plague North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, which are rich in resources and border Rwanda and Uganda, despite the official end to the DRC civil war in 2003.