Congolese Warlord ‘Terminator’ Gets Harshest ICC Sentence Ever

File photo of Bosco Ntaganda.

 

The International Criminal Court sentenced Congolese rebel Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda to 30 years in jail for war crimes and crimes against humanity on Thursday, the highest ever penalty issued by the tribunal.

Ntaganda was convicted in July of offences including murder, sexual slavery and using child soldiers in a mineral-rich region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 2000s.

Most of the charges against Rwandan-born Ntaganda, 46, related to a series of gruesome massacres of villagers carried out by his fighters.

“Murder was committed on a large scale,” presiding judge Robert Flemr said, adding that the Hague-based court had taken the “particular cruelty” of some of Ntaganda’s actions into account.

“The overall sentence imposed on you shall therefore be 30 years of imprisonment.”

But while the judges gave him the maximum sentence allowed by the ICC in terms of the number of years, they said that “despite their gravity” his crimes did not warrant a full-life prison term.

Ntaganda, dressed in a blue suit and shirt and wearing a red tie, showed no emotion as the sentence was passed in the high-security courtroom.

An ICC spokesman confirmed it was the heaviest ever sentence handed down to date by the court, which was set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes.

Ntaganda has appealed against his conviction earlier this year on 13 counts of war crimes and five of crimes against humanity — which saw him become the first to be convicted by the ICC of sexual enslavement.

‘Held to account’

Human Rights Watch welcomed the prison term.

“Bosco Ntaganda’s 30-year sentence sends a strong message that even people considered untouchable may one day be held to account,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division.

“While his victims’ pain cannot be erased, they can take some comfort in seeing justice prevail.”

A refugee from the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, Ntaganda emerged as a ruthless driver of ethnic Tutsi revolts that subsequently convulsed neighbouring DRC.

Judges said Ntaganda was a “key leader” of the Union of Congolese Patriots rebel group and its military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), in the DRC’s volatile Ituri region in 2002 and 2003.

More than 60,000 people have been killed since the violence erupted in Ituri, according to rights groups, as militias battle each other for control of mineral resources.

The court heard fearful villagers dubbed him “Terminator”, after the Arnold Schwarzenegger film about a merciless robotic killer, during two bloody operations by Ntaganda’s soldiers against civilians in rival villages in 2002 and 2003.

Fighters loyal to him carried out atrocities such as a massacre in a banana field behind a village in which at least 49 people including children and babies were disembowelled or had their heads smashed in.

No mitigating factors

Ntaganda received a series of sentences ranging from eight to 30 years, with ICC rules saying that the overall prison term must reflect the highest individual sentence.

He got 30 years for murder and attempted murder, with judges saying he was directly guilty of the murder of Catholic priest and indirectly responsible for many others by directing the military offensives. He also received a 30-year sentence for persecution.

Ntaganda further received 28 years for the “systematic” rape of “women, girls and men” including girls aged nine and 11; a sentence 14 years for the sex slavery of child soldiers recruited by his group; and 12 years for the sexual enslavement of civilian children.

Judges said they found no mitigating factors, despite defence arguments that he was himself a victim of the Rwandan genocide.

Ntaganda — known for his pencil moustache and a penchant for fine dining — said during his trial that he was “soldier not a criminal” and that the “Terminator” nickname did not apply to him.

After the Ituri conflict, Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army and was a general from 2007 to 2012, but then became a founding member of the M23 rebel group in a new uprising against the government.

In 2013 Ntaganda became the first ever suspect to surrender to the court, walking into the US embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali and asking to be sent to the Netherlands.

Ntaganda is one of five Congolese warlords to have been brought before the ICC, and his former FPLC commander Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2012.

His conviction was seen as a boost for the ICC after several high-profile suspects walked free. The court has also been criticised for mainly trying African suspects.

AFP

Sudan Rape Victims Insist Al-Bashir Must Face ICC Trial

Sudan's Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir
Sudan’s Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir

 

 

For Jamal Ibrahim, whose sisters were raped by militiamen in Darfur, only the handover of Sudan’s ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court can bring peace to the restive Darfur region.

“Two of my sisters were raped in front of my eyes by militiamen who stormed through our village, setting our houses on fire,” Ibrahim, 34, told AFP at Camp Kalma, a sprawling facility where tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Darfur have lived for years.

“Bashir and his aides who committed the crimes in Darfur must be handed over to the ICC if peace is to be established in the region.”

Ibrahim, who is from Mershing in the mountainous Jebel Marra area of Darfur, said his village was attacked by Arab militiamen in March 2003 soon after conflict erupted in the region.

The fighting broke out when ethnic African rebels took up arms against Khartoum’s then Arab-dominated government under Bashir, alleging racial discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, a group of mostly Arab raiding nomads that it recruited and armed to create a militia of gunmen who were often mounted on horses or camels.

They have been accused of applying a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The brutal campaign earned Bashir and others arrest warrants from The Hague-based ICC for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

About 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, the United Nations says.

 ‘Won’t accept any peace deal’ 

Bashir, who denies the ICC charges, was ousted by the army in April after months of nationwide protests against his ironfisted rule of three decades.

He is currently on trial in Khartoum on charges of corruption, but war victims like Ibrahim want the ex-leader to stand trial at the ICC, something the northeast African country’s new authorities have so far resisted.

Ibrahim said his father and his uncle were shot dead when militiamen, riding on camels, rampaged through their village.

“We fled from there… and came to this camp. Since then we have not returned to our village,” Ibrahim told an AFP correspondent who visited Camp Kalma last week.

Established near Niyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur state, Camp Kalma is one of the largest facilities hosting people displaced by the conflict.

It is a sprawling complex of dusty tracks lined with mud and brick structures, including a school, a medical centre and a thriving market, where everything from clothes to mobile phones are sold.

Hundreds of thousands of Darfur victims live in such camps, subsisting on aid provided by the UN and other international organisations.

In Camp Kalma, hundreds of women and children queue up daily to collect their monthly quota of food aid.

“Often the officials here tell us that we must return to our village, but we can’t because our lands are occupied by others,” said a visibly angry Amina Mohamed, referring to Arab pastoralists who now occupy large swathes of land that previously belonged to people from Darfur.

“We won’t accept any peace deal unless we get back our land. We will leave this camp only when those who committed the crimes are taken to the ICC.”

 Unconvinced victims 

Even as instances of violence in Darfur, a region the size of Spain, have fallen in recent years, there are still regular skirmishes between militiamen fighting for resources and livestock.

Sudan’s new transitional authorities have vowed to bring peace to Darfur and two other conflict zones of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

A Sudanese delegation led by generals and government officials is currently holding peace talks in the South Sudan capital of Juba with two umbrella rebel groups that fought Bashir’s forces in these three regions.

On Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a “permanent ceasefire” in the three regions to show that authorities are committed to establishing peace.

But residents of Camp Kalma are not convinced, with hundreds of them staging a protest against the talks in Juba.

Musa Adam, 59, who hails from the village of Dilej but has lived in Camp Kalma for years, is in no mood to forgive Bashir.

Seven members of his family were shot dead by militiamen when they raided his village in 2003, Adam said.

“I know those militia leaders… I am ready to testify at the ICC against them as a witness to their crimes,” he said.

“Until these criminals are taken to the ICC, we cannot have peace in Darfur.”

AFP

Insurgency: Osinbajo Restates FG’s Commitment To ICC, Rome Statute

Photo: Tolani Alli

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has restated Nigeria’s commitment to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) preliminary examination into issues relating to the insurgency in the North East.

In a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, Osinbajo said the Federal Government remained committed to its obligations under the Rome Statute.

READ ALSO: Amendment Of Production Sharing Contract Bill Will Generate More Revenue, Says Lawan

A delegation from the ICC led by its Prosecutor, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, paid a visit to Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja to clarify the judicial inquiry composed by the Federal Government on some preliminary issues raised.

Osinbajo said, “We have done quite a lot to prove that we are determined to fulfill our obligation under the Statute. And I want to say that, on behalf of the Nigerian government, we respect the process, and there is no reluctance on our part at all.

“Again, let me say that Nigeria is committed to our obligations and the process under the Rome Statute; we are strong supporters of the Statute and the work of the ICC.”

Meanwhile, the ICC Prosecutor, Bensouda, affirmed that since the Court started the preliminary examination, “we have had full cooperation and support from the Nigerian government and authorities, we have also engaged as much as possible.”

Gbagbo’s Lawyer Asks ICC To Release Cote D’Ivore’s Ex-President

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo gestures as he enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on January 15, 2019. Peter Dejong / ANP / AFP

 

The lawyer for former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo has asked the International Criminal Court to “immediately and unconditionally” release him after his acquittal over post-electoral violence that killed around 3,000 people.

Gbagbo, the first head of state to stand trial in The Hague, and his deputy Charles Ble Goude were both cleared of crimes against humanity in January and released under conditions the following month.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor has appealed the ruling alleging “legal and procedural errors”.

Belgium agreed to host Gbagbo, 73, after he was released in February under conditions including that he would return to court for any prosecution appeal against his acquittal.

Ble Goude is living in the Netherlands under similar conditions.

Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit sent a 22-page letter to the ICC asking it to “immediately and unconditionally free Gbagbo … and to say that he is free to go wherever he wishes, for example his own country”, adding that he should be able to contest next year’s presidential election.

“Laurent Gbagbo could in effect, at the demand of political players in the country, be allowed to participate in the campaign … or even be a candidate,” said the letter, seen by AFP on Tuesday.

“Restrictions on his freedom could … prevent him from playing a role in the public life of his country and in reconciliation.”

Gbagbo faced charges on four counts of crimes against humanity over the 2010-2011 bloodshed which following a disputed vote in the West African nation.

Prosecutors said Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” after he was narrowly defeated by his bitter rival — now president — Alassane Ouattara in elections in the world’s largest cocoa producer.

He and Ble Goude were tried over responsibility for murder, attempted murder, rape, persecution and “other inhumane acts” during five months of violence, both pleading not guilty.

However, judges dismissed the charges, saying that the prosecution “failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard.”

Against the backdrop of the Gbagbo controversy, Ivory Coast’s opposition are trying to mark out common ground ahead of next year’s presidential poll in which Ouattara, 77, has yet to confirm he is standing.

AFP

ICC Prosecutor Appeals Acquittal Of Cote D’Ivore’s Ex-President Gbagbo

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo gestures as he enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on January 15, 2019. Peter Dejong / ANP / AFP

 

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court appealed on Monday against the shock acquittal of former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo over post-electoral violence that killed around 3,000 people.

Gbagbo, the first head of state to stand trial in The Hague, and his deputy Charles Ble Goude, were both cleared of crimes against humanity in January and released the following month.

“The appeal will demonstrate that the trial chamber committed legal and procedural errors which led to the acquittals of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ble Goude on all counts,” Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office said.

Judges had cleared the pair “without properly articulating and consistently applying a clearly defined standard of proof,” said Bensouda.

Belgium agreed to host Gbagbo, 73, after he was released in February under conditions including that he would return to court for any prosecution appeal against his acquittal.

Ble Goude is meanwhile living in the Netherlands under similar conditions.

Gbagbo faced charges of crimes against humanity over the 2010-2011 bloodshed following a disputed vote the West African nation.

Prosecutors said Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” after he was narrowly defeated by his bitter rival — now president — Alassane Ouattara in elections in the world’s largest cocoa producer.

However judges dismissed the charges, saying that the prosecution “failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard.”

The prosecutor had previously indicated in January that she intended in appeal but had to wait until the court’s full written reasons for the decision came out in July.

AFP

Obaseki Seeks Stiffer Punishment For Human Traffickers

Obaseki

 

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki has called for a stiffer punishment on human traffickers, especially cartels propagating the dastardly act.

Obaseki made this call on Saturday in commemoration of the World Day for International Justice by the United Nations.

He believes that if the International Criminal Court metes out appropriate sanctions on perpetrators of human trafficking, the menace of illegal migration will be reduced to the barest minimum.

“As countries and sub-national actors work towards curbing human trafficking and illegal migration, it is important to stress that there is an international angle to the campaign due to the extensive network of the perpetrators of the act.

“So, we need stiffer measures and a more holistic approach to mitigating the menace,” he said while decrying the rate of illegal migration.

While reiterating his administration’s commitment to effectively address the situation, the governor recalled that his state has enacted the “Edo State Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law (2018) and the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT).”

READ ALSO: Stowaway: FAAN Suspends Four Heads Of Aviation Security

Obaseki noted that these laws, coupled with Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law and the Child Rights Law are “legal instruments that underpin our commitment to protect our people and rid the state of tyranny against vulnerable persons.”

He wants the ICC to investigate the activities of cartels who exploit unsuspecting people by leading them into what can best be described as modern-day slavery.

In doing so, he expressed the readiness of the state government to partner the ICC and other international agencies in the fight against human trafficking.

Congolese ‘Terminator’ Faces War Crimes Judgment

 

The International Criminal Court is on Monday to pass judgment on Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, dubbed the “Terminator” for allegedly masterminding massacres and using children in his rebel army.

Ntaganda, 45, is accused of overseeing the slaughter of civilians by his soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s volatile, mineral-rich Ituri region in 2002 and 2003.

Prosecutors gave horrific details of victims including some who were disembowelled and had their throats slit, as part of the evidence during his three-year trial in The Hague.

The ICC says it will announce at 0800 GMT “whether it finds the accused innocent or guilty beyond reasonable doubt.”

The soft-spoken Ntaganda — known for his pencil moustache and a penchant for fine dining — told judges during his trial that he was “soldier not a criminal” and that the “Terminator” nickname did not apply to him.

Rwandan-born Ntaganda faces 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity for his role in the brutal conflict that wracked the northeastern region.

Prosecutors portrayed him as the ruthless leader of ethnic Tutsi revolts amid the wars that wracked the Democratic Republic of Congo after the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda.

More than 60,000 people have been killed since the violence erupted in the region in 1999 according to rights groups, as militias battle each other for control of scarce mineral resources.

High profile setbacks

Prosecutors said Ntaganda was central to the planning and operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots rebels and its military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).

The FPLC killed at least 800 people as it fought rival militias in Ituri, prosecutors said.

Formerly a Congolese army general, Ntaganda then became a founding member of the M23 rebel group, which was eventually defeated by Congolese government forces in 2013.

The first-ever suspect to voluntarily surrender to the ICC, he walked into the US embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali in 2013 and asked to be sent to the court, based in the Netherlands.

Ntaganda is one of five Congolese warlords brought before the ICC, which was set up in 2002 as an independent international body to prosecute those accused of the world’s worst crimes.

Ntaganda’s former FPLC commander Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2012.

But it has suffered several setbacks over recent years with some of its most high-profile suspects walking free, while it has also been criticised for mainly trying African suspects so far.

In a separate hearing on Monday, judges are to determine whether there is enough evidence for a Malian jihadist to face trial for demolishing Timbuktu’s fabled shrines, as well as for rape, torture and sex slavery.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud was captured and transferred to the court last year.

AFP

Sudan Killings: Al-Bashir Should Face Justice, Says ICC

Sudan’s Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir/ AFP

 

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday demanded that deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir stand trial for the mass killings perpetrated in Darfur.

“Now is the time for the people of Sudan to choose law over the impunity and ensure that the ICC suspects in the Darfur situation finally face justice in a court of law,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council.

Bashir, who has been in jail in Sudan since a military coup ended his 30-year rule in April, was indicted by the ICC in 2009 in connection with fighting in the western region of Darfur.

READ ALSO: Court Orders End To Internet Blackout In Sudan

More than 300,000 people have died there and 2.5 million others have been displaced since 2003, according to UN figures.

Bashir appeared in a court in Khartoum on Sunday to hear corruption charges levelled against him. He also faces possible murder charges for the deaths of demonstrators killed during the protests that led to his downfall.

The generals who now rule Sudan have so far ruled out transferring Bashir to the ICC, which accuses him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ICC prosecutor said that after the tumultuous events of recent months, Sudan “is now at a crossroads with the opportunity to depart from its previous policy of complete non-cooperation.”

He urged the country to “embark on a new chapter by signalling a new commitment to accountability for the victims” in Darfur.

“I am ready to engage in dialogue with the authorities in Sudan to ensure that the Darfur suspects face independent and impartial justice, either in a courtroom in The Hague or in Sudan,” said Bensouda.

“Continued impunity is not an option,” she said. “The victims of the Darfur situation deserve to finally have their day in court.”

The ICC has issued five arrest warrants in connection with the Darfur case. As well as Bashir, two suspects, Abdel Raheem Hussein and Ahmad Harun, have reportedly been arrested in Sudan, Bensouda said.

Several members of the Security Council, most of them European states, have backed Bensouda’s calls for Bashir to be brought before the international court and for the new authorities in Khartoum to cooperate with the ICC.

AFP

Gaddafi’s Son Eligible To Face Crimes Against Humanity Trial, Says ICC

The son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Seif al-Islam, announces his withdrawal from political life on August 20, 2008, in the town of Sebha, 800 kilometres (500 miles) south of the capital Tripoli.  Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that a crimes against humanity case can be brought against Seif al-Islam, son of the later Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, rejecting a challenge from his defence team.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber in a statement said it had decided by a majority vote that “the case against Mr Gaddafi was admissible before the court”.

Seif al-Islam, 46, has been sought by the international court in The Hague over crimes allegedly committed in February 2011 during the suppression of a popular revolt in Libya.

He was captured by a Libyan militia in November 2011, days after his father was killed in a NATO-backed uprising against his decades-old rule.

In 2015 a Tripoli court sentenced him to death in absentia along with eight other Gaddafi-era figures.

The armed group who captured him later announced that he had been released and his whereabouts remain unknown.

His lawyers had argued to the ICC that he was now sought for substantially the same crimes that he had already been tried for in Tripoli.

But the ICC judges decided that the Tripoli court decision remained subject to appeal and, as it was rendered in absentia, left open the possibility of reinstituting judicial proceedings.

AFP

ICC President Asks US To Join Global Criminal Court

President International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji. (Photo Credit: ICC-CPI)

 

The International Criminal Court’s top official has called on the United States to join and support its work after Washington recently stepped up its dispute with the global legal body.

ICC president Chile Eboe-Osuji called on the US to “join her closest allies and friends at the table of the Rome Statute”, referring to the court’s founding document.

“The past, present and future victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes need her to do so,” Eboe-Osuji said in remarks made in the US capital on Friday, released by the court on Monday.

The United States has never joined the ICC, whose chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked judges in November 2017 to authorise her to open a probe into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

READ ALSO: Ethiopian Airlines Crash Report Due Monday: Foreign Ministry

Some legal experts say the case is the Hague-based court’s most complex and politically controversial investigation to date. It could be the first time alleged crimes committed by US forces could be under the spotlight.

In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced two weeks ago that they would deny visas to ICC members involved in any investigations into actions of US troops in Afghanistan or other countries.

It was the US’s first concrete action against the ICC since the White House threatened reprisals against the tribunal in September last year.

But Eboe-Osuji said: “It is, with all due sense of responsibility that I directly request the leadership of the United States to give its support to the ICC.”

The ICC is the world’s only independent legal body set up in 2002 in The Hague to try the gravest of crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It can however only get involved when states are unwilling or unable to investigate themselves.

It is ruled by the Rome Statute and currently has 122 member states. Its chief prosecutor can initiate investigations on her own if the probe involves at least one member state — in this case Afghanistan.

Relations with various US administrations have been strained since the court started its work.

The US Congress in 2002 passed the American Service Members Protection Act, which contained a number of provisions should a US citizen ever be put before the ICC.

Also known as the “Hague Invasion Act,” one provision within the federal law allows for the US president to authorise military force to free any US personnel held by the ICC.

AFP

INEC To Present Certificates Of Return To NASS Members-Elect On March 14

National Assembly Must Reconvene Immediately – APC
National Assembly Complex (file)

 

INEC has set Thursday, March 14 as the day for presentation of Certificates of Return to the newly elected members of the National Assembly. 

According to a statement by the electoral umpire, the event will take place at Africa Hall of the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja.

For the newly elected Senators, the presentation will take place at 10am while for the newly elected House of Representatives members, the presentation will hold at 2pm on the same day.

READ ALSO: INEC Declares Benue Governorship Election Inconclusive

 

Hold El-Rufai Responsible If Foreigners Are Killed, Falana Tells ICC

Withdraw Charges Against CJN, Falana Tells FG
Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana (file photoFemi F)

 

Human Rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, says the International Criminal Court should hold Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State responsible in the event of any foreigner’s death during the general elections.

He made the call on Wednesday while delivering a public lecture organised by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in honour of the late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, who passed on 13 years ago.

Read Also: El-Rufai Warns Foreigners Against Interfering In Nigeria’s Affairs

“The Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who has also warned against any form of electoral violence in the country is urged to hold Governor El Rufai responsible if foreign observers and monitors are killed during the 2019 general election,” he stated.

Governor El-Rufai had threatened that those who interfere in the nation’s internal affairs as it concerns the general elections “would return to their countries in body bags”.

The comments have since sparked criticism from some Nigerians, members of the opposition as well as the international community.