On Thursday, Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda was sentenced to 30 years in prison by the International Criminal Court in a historic judgement. The ICC Ntaganda found Ntaganda guilty of 5 counts of crimes against humanity and 18 counts of war earlier in the year.
The sentence of 30 years is the longest ever given by the ICC, said Ida Sawyer of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"He is the first person convicted at the ICC for sexual slavery, as well as the first person convicted at the ICC for crimes of sexual violence committed against his own troops", she stressed.
Bosco Ntaganda is a Tutsi born in Rawandan who fled for the Democratic Republic of Congo after the genocide in Rwanda. From the age of 17 he alternated between different rebel groups in both countries. He became a member of the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC), and then later the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel group, during the conflict in the east of the Congo. He ultimately joined the Congolese army, after peace negotiations with the CNDP, where he became a Deputy Chief of Staff.
The ICC's first arrest warrant for Ntaganda was in 2006 on allegations of recruiting children under 15 into the FPLC from 2002 to 2003. The ICC issued a second arrest warrant for crimes including murder, rape, and sexual slavery alleged to have occurred at the same time. Ntaganda led a mutiny in 2012 with M23, which was accused of crimes including rape, child soldier recruitment, and unlawful killings.
Ida Sawyer explained that:
"Bosco Ntaganda was a member of the Rwandan-backed CNDP (Congrès national pour la défense du peuple – National Congress for the Defense of the People) rebel group, which committed countless atrocities against civilians. In late 2008, in the town of Kiwanja, north of Goma, Ntaganda orchestrated an attack where 150 people were killed over two days. For the next five years, I spent a lot of time covering his abuses, speaking to survivors who told harrowing tales of attacks they had survived. As part of a deal that was negotiated with the Congolese and Rwandan governments, Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army and became a general, commanding military operations in eastern Congo.
Later, after he created the M23, another notorious rebel group backed by Rwanda, he led attacks on many villages, summarily executing hundreds of people, and was accused of rape, torture, and forced recruitment of children to serve as soldiers in the group."
In 2013, following intense pressure placed on the Rwandan government, which was a patron of M23, Ntaganda handed himself in at the US embassy in Rwanda where he was transferred to the custody of the ICC.