The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday handed down a 30-year jail term to a Congolese rebel chief nicknamed the “Terminator” for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the longest-ever sentence given out by the tribunal.
Bosco Ntaganda was in July convicted of offenses including murder, sexual slavery and using child soldiers in the mineral-rich Ituri Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) in the early 2000s.
Most of the charges against Rwandan-born Ntaganda, 46, related to a series of gruesome massacres of villagers carried out by his fighters.
“Murder was committed on a large scale,” presiding judge Robert Flemr said, adding that the Hague-based court had taken the “particular cruelty” of some of Ntaganda’s actions into account.
“The overall sentence imposed on you shall therefore be 30 years of imprisonment,” Flemr said.
Judges gave him the maximum possible sentence in terms of the number of years, but said that “despite their gravity,” his crimes did not warrant a life term.
Ntaganda, dressed in a blue suit and shirt, and wearing a red tie, showed no emotion as the sentence was passed in the high-security courtroom.
A court spokesman confirmed that it was the heaviest-ever sentence handed down by the court, which was set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes.
Ntaganda has already appealed his conviction earlier this year on 13 counts of war crimes and five of crimes against humanity — which saw him become the first to be convicted by the court of sexual enslavement.
He now has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
“Bosco Ntaganda’s 30-year sentence sends a strong message that even people considered untouchable may one day be held to account,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. “While his victims’ pain cannot be erased, they can take some comfort in seeing justice prevail.”
A refugee from the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, Ntaganda emerged as a ruthless driver of ethnic Tutsi revolts that subsequently convulsed the DR Congo.
Ntaganda was a “key leader” of the Union of Congolese Patriots rebel group and its military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, in Ituri in 2002 and 2003, judges said.
After the Ituri conflict, Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army and was a general from 2007 to 2012, but then became a founding member of the M23 rebel group in a new uprising against the government.
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