A former Congo military leader on trial for charges ranging from murder and rape to conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery told judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) he was “a revolutionary, not a criminal”.
Bosco Ntaganda, dubbed “The Terminator” during his period with the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia, insisted the “Terminator described by the prosecutor is not me” as he delivered a closing statement at the end of his three-year trial.
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 UPC, a militia group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
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.
Prosecutors argued earlier Ntaganda not only personally committed crimes ranging from murder to rape, sexual enslavement and the use of child soldiers but ordered and oversaw his troops committing similar atrocities.
They added Ntaganda’s UPC, dominated by the Hema clan, allegedly targeted the rival Lendu for expulsion from Congo’s Ituri region.
His defence insists Ntaganda was a loyal and disciplined military commander whose involvement in events “caused fewer victims instead of more”. The UPC commander took measures to prevent crimes and punish perpetrators, defence lawyer Stephane Bourgon said.
Bourgon urged the court to asses Ntaganda’s deeds “based on evidence, not on the internet” and cast doubt on the reliability of several prosecution witnesses.
Bourgon recalled the recent acquittal on appeal of another Congolese militia leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba.
In that case judges ruled while atrocities were committed by Bemba’s troops his level of control over them was uncertain and he took sufficient measures to stop them.
No date has been set for a verdict in Ntaganda’s trial, with judges saying “it would certainly take some time” to go over all case material.