Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, and Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect, Karen Smith, welcome the judgement delivered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Bosco Ntaganda, who was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Bosco Ntaganda, a commander of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and its military wing, the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), was convicted of 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity for acts committed in Ituri Province, DRC, between 2002 and 2003. Crimes include, but are not limited to, murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, intentionally directing attacks against civilians, and conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into an armed group and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
The judgement delivered this Monday sends a powerful message that perpetrators of atrocity crimes, including violations against women and children, will be held accountable sooner or later. The senior UN officials expressed their support and solidarity with the victims. They underlined that “Although no judgement can erase the horrendous suffering of the victims, Monday’s verdict brings a sense of justice and vindication to victims of grave violations and abuses of human rights in the DRC and elsewhere”.
“This verdict, if upheld on appeal, will set an important precedent as the first final conviction for crimes of conflict-related sexual violence at the ICC”, the UN officials stated. “It is also significant in extending the protection of international law to victims who are raped or sexually enslaved by members of their own armed group, including forced recruits. In this regard, the decision sends a strong warning to other commanders who commit sexual violence and other grave violations including child recruitment or fail to prevent and punish such abuses by their subordinates”, they added.
The officials stressed the importance of prevention, stating “while criminal accountability is foremost a tool to provide justice and redress to victims, it also has an important preventative function. Fighting impunity is one of the key measures to prevent the possibility of recurrence”.
All four UN officials commended the survivors who bravely bore witness in this case and called for the judgement to be swiftly followed by a comprehensive decision on reparations to help the victims rebuild their lives. They further noted that accountability is crucial to prevent and deter violations against civilians, including women and children, and to confirm in the eyes of communities and combatants alike that no one is above the law.