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The Netherlands: Congo atrocities suspect arrives at International Criminal Court


Bosco Ntaganda has arrived in The Hague to face charges of murder, rape and using child soldiers. He was allegedly involved in the brutal murder of at least 800 people in villages in the volatile east of the DR Congo.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) had sought Ntaganda for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during his years as a warlord in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. After a 15-year run, and nearly seven years after he was first indicted, the commander of the Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 rebels had walked into the US embassy in Rwanda on Monday and asked to be sent to The Hague.

The ICC tweeted late Friday that "Bosco Ntaganda arrived to the ICC detention center" under Dutch police escort.

Ntaganda has become the first ICC suspect to surrender himself to the court's custody. He stands accused of using child soldiers and keeping sex slaves from 2002 to 2003. Ntaganda, the fifth African in the ICC's custody, will face judges Tuesday, when they will verify his identity and the language in which he will be able to follow the hearings.

'A good day'

"This is a good day for victims in the DRC and for international justice," ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement. "Today those who are alleged to have long suffered at the hands of Bosco Ntaganda can look forward to the prospect of justice taking its course."

Despite his 2006 ICC indictment, Ntaganda joined the Congolese army in 2009 as a general following a peace deal that integrated him and his men into the military. Last year, however, the agreement between Ntaganda and the government disintegrated, and he and his troops defected, becoming known as M23 and battling Congolese troops.

In a statement, US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed Ntaganda's arrest as a major step for accountability: "Now there is hope that justice will be done." His capture "will also send a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities that they will be held accountable for their crimes," Kerry said.

Congo's wars have killed 5 million in the past 15 years, and eastern areas remaain afflicted by rebel violence despite a decade-long UN peacekeeping mission.

Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch said that Ntaganda's arrest "will be a major victory for victims of atrocities in eastern Congo and the local activists who have worked at great risk for his arrest." The expected trial will show the ICC's importance in "providing accountability for the world's worst crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to deliver justice," she added.

mkg/av (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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