Congolese Warlord Sentenced to 30 Years for War Crimes

Congolese Warlord Sentenced to 30 Years for War Crimes

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Congolese warlord known as “the Terminator” was sentenced on Thursday to 30 years in prison by an international court in The Hague for war crimes including murder, rape and sexual slavery.

The warlord, Bosco Ntaganda, 46, was convicted in July of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in atrocities in a bloody ethnic conflict in the mineral-rich Ituri region of Congo in 2002-03.

Mr. Ntaganda’s career spanned almost 20 years of fighting, first in Rwanda and then in an array of rebel groups vying for control for the coveted region of eastern Congo. He also served as a general in the Congolese Army.

According to the prosecution, Mr. Ntaganda was one of the most ruthless and cruel of Congo’s rebel leaders.

His army had conscripted children and outfitted them with ill-fitting uniforms and AK-47s. Female fighters, some underage, were made sex slaves. He was also accused of personally shooting and killing a Catholic priest, and of being responsible for the massacre of a village, not sparing women or babies.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague first issued an arrest warrant for him in 2006 and another in 2012, but Mr. Ntaganda lived openly, seemingly untouchable. Then, he unexpectedly arrived at the United States Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2013 and asked surprised diplomats to turn him over to the international court.

One theory was that by entering the American Embassy, Mr. Ntaganda had hoped to save his life after feeling threatened by members of his own rebel group, known as M23. The group had splintered, and he and about 700 of his men had fled across the border into Rwanda.

He was also on a list of most-wanted men, and the United States government would have paid a hefty reward for his capture.

When he appeared before the court in 2013 for the first time and the judge asked him to state his profession, Mr. Ntaganda replied simply, “I was a soldier in the Congo.”

He also told the judge and a room full of black-gowned lawyers, “I was informed of these crimes, but I plead not guilty.”

The verdict, against a man whose power once made him seem invulnerable, sent a strong warning to other abusive commanders, analysts said at the time.

“When warlords see these convictions, they know they can be prosecuted,” said Kathryn Sikkink, a professor of human rights policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

On Thursday, Mr. Ntaganda showed no emotion as the presiding judge, Robert Fremr, hand down sentences ranging from eight to 30 years for individual crimes and an overarching sentence of 30 years.

The court’s maximum sentence is 30 years, although judges have the discretion to impose a life sentence.

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