THE HAGUE – Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda, dubbed “The Terminator,” was behind bars at the International Criminal Court on Saturday after turning himself in to face charges ranging from murder and rape to the use of child soldiers.
The first suspect ever to hand himself in to the ICC in The Hague, Ntaganda was wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during his years as a warlord in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was allegedly involved in the brutal murder of at least 800 people in villages in the volatile eastern part of his country. He is also accused of using child soldiers in his rebel militia and keeping women as sex slaves.
Ntaganda walked into the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda on Monday and asked to be sent to the court. He was taken into ICC custody in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, and flown to Rotterdam Airport.
Ntaganda is the fifth African in ICC custody. He will face judges for the first time Tuesday.
Set up just over a decade ago, the ICC is the world’s only permanent criminal court to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch said the arrival of Ntaganda at the ICC “will be a major victory for victims of atrocities in eastern Congo and the local activists who have worked at great risk for his arrest.” The expected trial will showcase the court’s importance in “providing accountability for the world’s worst crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to deliver justice.”
Once a commander of Congo’s M23 militia, Ntaganda is believed to have crossed into Rwanda last weekend along with several hundred fighters loyal to him after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of a rival rebel faction.
He arrived in The Hague just a few days before the fourth anniversary of the signing of a peace agreement with Kinshasa that integrated his earlier rebel group into the country’s regular army and paved the way for him to become a Congolese general.
The failure of that deal sparked a mutiny by the rebels-turned-soldiers who set up the M23. The militants have been fighting the Congolese Army in the restive and mineral-rich North Kivu Province since April.