News24

Arrest warrants for DRC warlords

2012-07-14 10:31

The Hague - The International Criminal Court on Friday issued arrest warrants for two militia leaders accused of widespread atrocities in eastern Congo, stepping up pressure on Kinshasa to detain the men.

Judges issued a warrant for Sylvestre Mudacumura and a second warrant for Bosco Ntaganda on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a written decision, judges said there are "reasonable grounds to believe" Mudacumura is responsible for nine war crimes including murder, mutilation, rape and pillage, in the Kivus region of Congo in 2009-2010.

The 58-year-old is allegedly a field commander in the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which is also known by its French acronym FDLR.

Judges initially rejected the application for an arrest warrant, but prosecutors then filed a more detailed request, leading to Friday's decision.

Crimes against humanity

The court also issued its second warrant for Ntaganda, one of Congo's most notorious rebel leaders.

Ntaganda was first indicted in 2006 but has evaded capture since then. He was co-opted into Congo's army as part of a peace deal, but defected from the armed forces in April with other renegade soldiers and regrouped as the M23 rebel group. The name comes from the date in March 2009 when Ntaganda and his rebels were integrated into the army they have again deserted.

The warrant issued on Friday for Ntaganda focuses on crimes he allegedly committed in the Kivus for a year starting September 2002.

Judges said he is wanted on three counts of crimes against humanity and four of war crimes including murder, rape and sexual slavery, persecution and pillage.

Ntaganda's first arrest warrant charges him with three war crimes committed in the Ituri region of Congo for allegedly using child soldiers.

Keeping the peace

Congolese President Joseph Kabila dismissed calls for his arrest under the first ICC warrant, until recently, arguing that Ntaganda's co-operation was essential to keeping the peace in Congo's troubled east. UN peacekeepers in Congo who should have been arresting Ntaganda were forced to work with soldiers under his command.

Ntaganda denies any part in the mutiny that has again shattered the fragile peace in eastern Congo this year, and the new M23 movement denies that Ntaganda is its leader. But a UN experts' report that accuses Rwanda of helping create and arm the rebellion, says Ntaganda is behind it and that new recruits from Rwanda are bedded and fed at a hotel Ntaganda owns on Congo's border with Rwanda.

In May, Human Rights Watch accused Ntaganda of again press-ganging children - this time for the M23 rebellion. The New York-based body charged Ntaganda had forcibly recruited at least 149 boys and young men in the first month of the rebellion.

On Tuesday, the court in The Hague sentenced Ntaganda's one-time brother-in-arms Thomas Lubanga to 14 years imprisonment for using child soldiers in Ituri. Lubanga was the first war criminal convicted and sentenced by the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.