Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda surrenders
New York, Mar 20 : United Nations officials Tuesday welcomed the surrender of rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by an international court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including recruiting children, murder and rape.
According to media reports, Ntaganda walked into the United States Embassy in Rwanda Monday and turned himself in, and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in the Netherlands.
"The surrender of Bosco Ntaganda and his early transfer to the ICC will help advance the peace process in the DRC," said Roger Meece, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO). "It will also send a strong signal to other human rights offenders that they are not beyond justice."
In a news release, the mission also welcomed the decision of the US to transfer him to the ICC, which has indicted him on seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Ituri province between 2002 and 2003. He is accused of being responsible for the use of children in armed conflict and acts of murder, rape and sexual slavery.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, called for the swift transfer of Ntaganda to the ICC - the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
"For years, Ntaganda and armed elements under his command have ravaged eastern Congo, killing, raping and recruiting children on a large scale," she said, urging that justice be done for these children.
Zerrougui noted that, as founding member of the M23 rebel movement, Ntaganda also recruited and used children as bodyguards, porters and for other purposes in last year's rebellion in North Kivu province. These grave violations committed against children resulted in Security Council sanctions against him, including a travel ban and asset freeze.
"The international prosecution will prove that impunity does not prevail for child rights violations and creates an important deterrent for potential perpetrators," she stated.
Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said Ntaganda's compliance with the indictments "should serve as a warning to all perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict that justice may be delayed, but it cannot be denied."
"Impunity for these crimes will not be accepted, and the International Criminal Court will ensure the survivors of Ntaganda's reign of terror in Ituri will finally see justice served," she added.