Ntaganda Pleads: Not Guilty!

Deutsche Welle (Bonn)

26 MARCH 2013

The alleged war criminal, Bosco Ntaganda, has appeared before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to plead not guilty. He stands accused of crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ntaganda’s hearing on Tuesday in The Hague served to establish the identity of the accused and the charges levied against him.

Nevertheless, the defendant insisted on telling the court of his innocence. “I plead not guilty,” said Ntaganda, 39.

The presiding judge, Ekaterina Trendafilova, reminded him that the trial would not formally begin for several months.

“I wouldn’t like to interrupt you, because you should feel at ease,” said Trendafilova. “But the purpose of this initial hearing is … to know whether you have been informed about the crimes …your rights, and we are not discussing now anything related to your guilt or innocence.”

The ICC issued a warrant for Ntaganda seven years ago for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity between 2002 and 2003 in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. At that time, the Congolese rebel leader, known as “The Terminator” led troops that have been accused of perpetrating a multitude of abuses, including murder, sexual slavery, recruiting child soldiers and rape.

Eastern Congo is experiencing renewed fighting. More than 30 people died in Kitchanga in clashes between the army and rebels of the “Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo” (APCLS). (01.03.2013)

Most recently, the accused led the DRC rebel troops, known as M23. He is believed to have fled to Rwanda along with some of his troops over the past year following a defeat dealt by government troops.

Last week, Ntaganda surprised diplomats when he turned himself over to authorities at the US embassy in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, making him the first suspect ever to do so. The defendant was flown to The Hague soon after.

Defense lawyer Hassane Bel Lakhdar told the news agency AFP on Tuesday that Ntaganda “intended to file an application for temporary release, but it will not be today.”

“Ntaganda’s appearance at the ICC after years as a fugitive offers victims of horrific crimes a real hope of seeing justice,” Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch told the news agency Reuters.

“[His] detention in The Hague shows that no one is above the law.”

The ICC has charged Ntaganda with seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity.

Hearings against Ntaganda are scheduled to begin on September 23 in The Hague.

(AFP, Reuters, dpa)

The New Times

26 MARCH 2013

Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda today made his initial appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC), following his transfer from the US Embassy in Kigali to the Hague-based tribunal last Friday.

He pleaded not guilty to the war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against him – crimes he allegedly committed when he was a rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Ntaganda, who surprised many when he turned himself in at the US Embassy more than a week ago – seven years since he was first indicted by the court, faces 10 counts including rape, murder and using child soldiers.

In court, Gen. Ntaganda was informed of the charges and was told a confirmation hearing would be held on September 23 to determine whether there is enough evidence to put him on trial.


Hirondelle News Agency

26 MARCH 2013

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday scheduled confirmation of charges hearings for Congolese rebel Bosco Ntaganda for September 23, 2013. The date was announced at Ntaganda’s initial appearance, at which he was informed of the charges against him.

Ntaganda is suspected of seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in eastern DR Congo in 2002 and 2003. The charges include conscripting children and using them to fight, murder, rape and sexual slavery.

A confirmation of charges hearing is held to determine whether the evidence is strong enough to proceed to trial. It is conducted by a Pre-Trial Chamber.

Ntaganda is the first suspect to have surrendered himself voluntarily. He presented himself at the US embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, asking to be sent to the ICC, and was transferred there at the weekend. It is not clear why he surrendered. However, analysts suggest he may not have had much option following a split in his M23 rebel movement which apparently left him weakened and under threat.

Source: allAfrica.com


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