Hand Ntaganda to ICC, DRC told

2009-02-03 07:45

Kinshasa - A New York-based rights defender on Monday urged the Democratic Republic of Congo to arrest ex-rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda and hand him over for trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"We urge you to give your instructions to your judicial authorities for Ntaganda to be arrested and transferred to the jurisdiction of the ICC," Human Rights Watch wrote in a letter to Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

"Congo is party to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, and thus has a legal obligation to cooperate with the court, including apprehending persons under arrest warrant and surrendering them to the court," HRW added.

Ntaganda, former military commander of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) group based in eastern DR Congo, is the subject of an ICC arrest warrant for the alleged recruitment of child soldiers in 2002 and 2003.

Last month Ntaganda said he had overthrown Laurent Nkunda as CNDP leader and later claimed the group had made peace with the Kinshasa government.

He also put his forces at the disposal of a cross-border Congolese and Rwandan effort to oust Rwandan Hutu rebels from Congolese territory.

On Saturday Kabila said he welcomed Ntaganda's support to help create "peace and security" in the country.

But Param-Preet Singh, counsel to the International Justice Programme at HRW, said: "Kabila's government has a legal obligation to arrest Ntaganda, not to promote him.

"Giving an officer accused of such heinous crimes responsibility in military operations increases the likelihood of more attacks on civilians," he added.