The long-awaited opening of the trial of militia leader Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC is a significant step in the fight against impunity and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ntaganda was a commander in various armed rebel groups in the DRC’s troubled eastern provinces from the late 1990s onwards, including the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo and, most recently, M-23. He also served as a general in the Congolese army from 2009 to 2012.
The trial, which opens in The Hague on 2 September, will revolve around two attacks in the DRC’s Banyali-Kilo and Walendu-Djatsi districts in 2002-03. It marks the first time a militia leader faces sexual and gender-based charges for crimes against child soldiers under their command.
“The trial of Bosco Ntaganda, who spent years as a member of the Congolese armed forces while wanted by the ICC, marks the beginning of the end for impunity in the DRC,” said Clément Capo-Chichi, Africa regional coordinator for the Coalition for the ICC. “With accountability comes an opportunity to end the cycle of violence that has claimed millions Congolese lives since 1998.”
Central African Republic
Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and a group of other civil society organizations wrote an open letter to relevant governments and intergovernmental organizations asking them to support the special criminal tribunal in the CAR. Avocats Sans Frontières launched support activities in the CAR to help facilitate access to justice. HRW’s Lewis Mudge argued that UN forces must do more to prevent isolated killings in the country from spiraling out of control.
The ICC Presidency recomposed Trial Chamber VII in the case against Jean-Pierre Bemba and several of his associates accused of witness tampering and presenting false evidence.
Al Jazeera reported on the number of witnesses and reporters connected with the ICC proceedings in Kenya who have been killed.
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto sought leave to appeal an ICC ruling allowing the pre-recorded testimony of reluctant witnesses to be used in his trial. Ruto had reportedly held talks with his advisors and senior officials to discuss how to respond to the ruling, and leaders of the Jubilee coalition vowedto have the case against him dropped.
Former journalist Walter Barasa said that he is ready to go to The Hague to face ICC judges.
Former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo argued that the US should allow Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to attend the UN General Assembly, then arrest him. Al-Bashir will reportedly attendevents commemorating the end of World War II in China, while India’s president invited the Sudanese president to attend an Africa-India conference in Delhi in October.
Democratic Republic of Congo
HRW published a factsheet on the Bosco Ntaganda trial. An International Justice Monitor columnist considered how the Ntaganda trial can advance accountability for crimes against children in conflict. The ICC Presidency reassigned the situation in the DRC to Pre-Trial Chamber I.
Mali’s peace accord-monitoring committee demanded that a government-allied militia evacuate a city that it took from rebels, and Tuareg rebels say they won’t participate in the committee’s work until the group leaves. The militia has reportedly vowed to withdraw.
Amnesty International called on the US to ensure that an inquiry into the alleged killing of 18 civilians by US special forces in Afghanistan is thorough.
HRW’s Bill Van Esveld argued that Israeli impunity threatens the lives of children in Palestine.
Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists agreed to try to end all violations of a truce between the two sides by 1 September.
What else is happening?
REDRESS and the Insititute for Security Studies published a report on victim participation in domestic legal proceedings and how it may apply to the prosecution of international crimes.
HRW’s Elizabeth Evenson argued that ICC member states need to provide the Court with additional funding for local activities.
A study revealed that greater support and training is needed at the local level to increase prosecutions of sexual and gender-based crimes.
South Africa’s ANC party said that it wants the country to leave the ICC because of the Court’s ‘arrogance.’
An OpenDemocracy columnist argued that some parts of the Rome Statute make the ICC susceptible to politics.
A Guatemalan court ordered former Guatemalan leader Efrain Rios Montt to face retrial on genocide charges in January.
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