epa07702914 Congolese militia commander Bosco Ntaganda sits in the courtroom of the ICC (International Criminal Court) during his trial at the Hague in the Netherlands, 08 July 2019. Reports state that the ICC is expected to pass judgement on Ntaganda, accused of overseeing the slaughter of civilians by his soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003. EPA-EFE/EVA PLEVIER / POOL
July 8 (UPI) -- The so-called "Terminator" of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was found guilty of war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands on Monday.
Rebel commander Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda led soldiers who raped civilians, turned them into sexual slaves and forced children to become soldiers in 2002-03, ICC judges said in the case, tried at The Hague. The crimes occurred in the mineral-rich Ituri region of the DRC.
Ntaganda, who was deputy chief of staff and commander of operations for the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
He maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying he grew up in Rwanda and was persecuted and became a child soldier.
"What was unique about him is that he wasn't like other warlords who gave orders from the rear and then claimed they weren't involved -- he directly perpetrated crimes," former senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in the Congo Anneke Van Woudenberg told The Independent.
His lawyers said he tried to maintain discipline within his ranks and punished those who violated rules of war.
Femr cited examples of Ntaganda's brutaility, such as the time he personally executed a Catholic priest after detaining and violently interrogating him. His men raped a 9-year-old girl on his command. They also killed a pregnant woman who had been kept in a pit.
"The bodies of those killed -- men, women and children and babies -- were found in the banana field over the next days," Femr said. "Some bodies were found naked, some had their hands tied up and some had their heads crushed. Several bodies were disemboweled or otherwise mutilated."
The leader of the Patriots group, Thomas Lubanga, was convicted by the ICC in 2012 of using child soldiers. He's serving a 14-year prison term.