Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentencing of Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC today announced the sentence of 30 years in prison, the longest sentence to date by the court.
In July, Ntaganda was found guilty of 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity committed in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“Bosco Ntaganda’s sentencing is a landmark victory in the global fight to hold war criminals accountable for their heinous acts,” said Stephen Rapp, a PHR board member and former U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice who coordinated U.S. efforts that led to Ntaganda’s surrender and transfer to the ICC.
Ntaganda led the militia Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo and later formed the rebel group M23, which both terrorized communities across the eastern DRC. His military career was defined by prolific violence such as murder, rape, sexual slavery, the use of child soldiers, and attacks on civilians. The ICC issued arrest warrants for Ntaganda in 2006 and 2012 and Ntaganda surrendered himself to the United States embassy in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2013. His trial in the Hague opened in September 2015.
“While Ntaganda’s sentencing sets an important precedent, international and local prosecution efforts must be dramatically strengthened if we are to curb the rampant impunity for mass atrocities we see in the DRC and elsewhere around the world,” said Karen Naimer, Director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. “And while Ntaganda will spend the next 30 years in jail, there has been no reparations to date for the many victims of his crimes against humanity. We call for a survivor-centered international justice approach, including meaningful reparations for those affected by Ntaganda’s horrific acts of violence.”
“PHR and our many dedicated medical, legal, and civil society partners who champion human rights in the DRC have witnessed the devastating physical, psychological, social, and economic impacts of Ntaganda and his military groups’ violence across the country.” PHR launched its Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, a multi-year training and advocacy initiative, in 2011, with the aim of forging coalitions among regional medical, law enforcement and legal experts in Central and East Africa to increase local capacity for the collection of court-admissible evidence of sexual violence to support prosecutions for these crimes.
PHR is also calling for the ICC to pursue charges against other members of the militias responsible for crimes against humanity in the DRC. Efforts to investigate and document mass atrocities should be supported at the local, national, and international levels. More details about the Ntaganda case can be found at the ICC website.
Additional PHR resources, including multimedia, on its work to end sexual violence in conflict zones, and in support of Ntaganda’s conviction:
- Where We Work: Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Focus Area: Sexual Violence
- Press Release: “PHR Welcomes ICC Conviction of Congolese Warlord, Calls for Further Accountability, Reparations to Victims,” July 8, 2019
- Press Release: “Medical-Legal Collaboration Leads to Justice in Serial Rape Case in Democratic Republic of the Congo,” June 19, 2019
- Report: “Enhancing a Regional Response to Crimes of Sexual Violence,” December 1, 2015
- Press Release: “Congolese Warlord Must Now Face ICC Trial on War Crimes Charges,” March 19, 2013
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.