Court hears evidence on whether to continue trial against warlord

Feb. 10, 2014 at 12:33 PM
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A Congolese warlord led fighters, including children, as he waged an ethnically driven crusade of rape and murder, judges at The Hague, Netherlands, heard.

Prosecutors told judges at the International Criminal Court Monday Bosco Ntaganda committed the crimes more than 10 years ago while leading ethnic Hema fighters to drive ethnic Lendus from the Ituri region, an area rich in minerals in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Britain's the Guardian reported.

"He played a key role in planning assaults against the civilian population in order to gain territory," chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges during the hearing to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to take Ntaganda to trial.

Ntaganda, who hasn't entered a plea, could face life in prison if convicted.

Ntaganda, who led the Union of Congolese Patriots militia, "failed to prevent or punish crimes by troops under his effective command or control," Bensouda said.

Defense lawyers argued that the conflict lacked the ethnic overtones prosecutors gave it, the Guardian said.

"The UPC was not a Hema militia. Several commanders belonged to other ethnic groups, including those who took part in the events that form the basis for the charges today," defense attorney Marc Desalliers said.

"The person before you is not Hema, and nor is he from the Ituri region. He grew up in the North Kivu province. He belongs to the Tutsi ethnic group," Desalliers said.

Ntaganda is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder and rape, committed during a 2002-03 conflict in the east Democratic Republic of Congo.

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