The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called on judges to convict a former Congo military leader on charges ranging from murder and rape to conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery.
“The evidence shows Bosco Ntaganda personally committed crimes,” Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, in closing remarks in Ntaganda’s three-year trial. Ntanganda denies wrongdoing.
“He persecuted and attacked civilians, he murdered them, pillaged their goods, destroyed their charities and hospitals. And he enlisted and used children under 15 to participate directly in hostilities,” Bensouda said.
Ntaganda faces 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for acts allegedly committed in 2002-2003 when he was deputy Chief of Staff of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), a militia group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bensouda told judges the case would prove a landmark in that it recognised sexual enslavement of soldiers as a separate crime in the court’s jurisdiction.
Ntaganda’s lawyers are due to respond. During the trial Ntaganda testified in his own defence, arguing he was a peacemaker who tried to keep order amid a power vacuum in Ituri region of north-east Congo in the early 2000s.
He was unfairly tagged with the nickname “Terminator,” witnesses against him gave false testimony and he never harmed civilians.
Ntaganda surrendered at the US Embassy in Rwanda in 2013, seven years after his indictment, asking to be handed to the ICC after apparently fleeing Congo due to infighting among military groups.
In Tuesday’s closing remarks, Bensouda summarised testimony from witnesses to crimes allegedly committed by troops under Ntaganda’s command.
“A lot of people were executed by hand with machetes, some of them were disembowelled, even pregnant women,” Bensouda said, quoting a witness identified as P-105, who described the slaughter of a group of around 50 members of the Lendu tribe. The Lendu were allegedly targeted for expulsion from Ituri by Ntaganda’s UPC, dominated by the rival Hema clan.
Bensouda also cited from testimony of a girl allegedly conscripted and regularly raped by Ntaganda soldiers. She and others were referred to with a slur which translated as “common pot.”
Ntaganda plans to address the court after closing arguments.
No date for a verdict has yet been set.