A warlord who led the Congolese Revolutionary Army, dubbed the M23 rebels, is to face the highest number of charges that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has levelled in its history. Bosco Ntaganda, nicknamed the Terminator, is accused of 18 war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging and conscripting child soldiers. No one has been charged with so many crimes in the ICC's 21-case history, which includes trials of other Congolese warlords and politicians.
Ntaganda helped to run a series of rebel armies in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo until he gave himself up by walking up to the gates of the US Embassy in neighbouring Rwanda in March 2013. It is still not clear what prompted him to surrender.
The charges confirmed against him yesterday date from the war in the Ituri province in the north-east of Congo that raged between 2002 and 2003, when Ntaganda was the deputy chief of staff of a rebel army called the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo.
As many as 60,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes during fighting between the Hema and the Lendu ethnic groups over territory rich in gold.
Ntaganda came to greater prominence more recently when he took over from Laurent Nkunda to lead other eastern Congolese rebellions, most recently as head of the M23 that occupied the region's largest city, Goma, in November 2012.
A three-judge panel at the ICC agreed unanimously yesterday that there was sufficient evidence against Ntaganda to proceed with his trial. He is specifically accused of raids in two locations in late 2002 and early 2003.
"The chamber found that, as part of the widespread and systematic attack against the non-Hema civilian population and in the context of the non-international armed conflict, the crimes with which Bosco Ntaganda is charged were committed during two specific attacks," the court said in a statement.
Wairagala Wakabi of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, said Ntaganda was a "enduring and central figure in the DRC conflict", adding: "For several years Ntanganda personified the violence and the impunity in Congo."