But the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague said Monday the accused failed a moral test.
Two arrest warrants were issued by the ICC for Ntaganda, who is charged with multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity as leader of a rebel campaign in the DRC from 2002 to 2003. His confirmation of charges hearing started Monday to determine if there's enough evidence to go forward with a trial.
Marc Desalliers, defense counsel for Ntaganda, said the warlord's militia was working to protect civilians when DRC authorities were absent.
"Taking up weapons to defend people is not a crime, it is a fundamental right," he was quoted by the Guardian newspaper in London as saying.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda countered that Ntganda's militia, the Union of Congolese Patriots, targeted civilians to gain territory in DRC. Bensouda was quoted as saying Ntganda "failed to prevent or punish crimes by troops under his effective command or control."
Ntaganda surrendered voluntarily to the ICC in 2013 and is in the court's custody at The Hague, Netherlands.