The International Criminal Court sentenced former Congolese military leader Bosco Ntaganda to 30 years in prison for atrocities including murder, rape and conscripting child soldiers.
Ntaganda (46) was found guilty in July on 18 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for acts committed when he was military chief of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002-2003.
At Thursday’s sentencing, Judge Robert Fremr said there were no mitigating circumstances and issued the 30-year sentence, the longest handed down by The Hague court to date.
“The crimes for which Mr Ntaganda has been convicted, despite their gravity and his degree of culpability, do not warrant a sentence of life in prison,” Fremr said.
Ntaganda listened intently to the judges during the ruling. He is appealing his conviction.
In the conflict in Congo, Ntaganda’s UPC, dominated by the Hema clan, targeted rival Lendu people for expulsion from the mineral-rich Ituri region. Hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands fled.
During sentencing, judges described the “systematic rape” of the UPC’s female members by fellow militants under Ntaganda’s leadership including the rape of a child soldier aged nine.
“We welcome the fact that sexual violence charges were included in this case because those victims were left out (in previous Congo cases before the court) putting them in a difficult situation,” said Xavier Macky of the Justice Plus NGO in Bunia. The victims now hope the court will move into the next phase which could see them receive reparations for harm suffered.
Ntaganda’s 30-year sentence “sends a powerful message that those who commit serious crimes against the people, no matter their positions, can be held to account”, Ida Sawyer, Human Right’s Watch deputy Africa director, said in a statement.
Ntaganda’s boss, UPC leader Thomas Lubanga, is serving a 14-year sentence after conviction at the ICC on charges of conscripting and using child soldiers.