THE HAGUE (CN) — Former Congolese warlord Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda on Wednesday was given the longest sentence in the history of the International Criminal Court, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“His degree of culpability is substantial,” Presiding Judge Robert Fremr said, as he read aloud excerpts from the 117-page sentencing document.
Ntaganda was convicted in July of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his involvement in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 2002 to 2003. His trial took three years and involved 248 hearings. He was the fourth person to be convicted of crimes at the court.
Though a peace agreement was signed in 2003 in the DRC, the area remains unstable. An estimated 5.4 million people have died in the hostilities.
Charges against the 46-year-old, who appeared emotionless during the hour-long hearing, include murder and attempted murder, attacking civilians, rape, sexual slavery of civilians, pillaging and conscription of child soldiers younger than 15.
Judge Fremr cited a particularly heinous crime in which Ntaganda detained a priest and three nuns. According to prosecutors, he murdered the priest and ordered his troops to rape the three nuns, who survived. “They still refuse to speak about it,” Fremr said.
Ntaganda also was convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl who was acting as one of his bodyguards, among other crimes.
Created by the Rome Statute in 2002, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is a global court that adjudicates war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC issued its first arrest warrant for Ntaganda in 2006, which was updated in 2012 to include more crimes. The court has no enforcement apparatus and relies on member states to hand over suspects. Ntaganda, however, turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda in 2012.
Thirty years is the longest sentence generally allowed at the ICC, though judges can issue a life sentence in extreme cases.
“This provides some measure of justice for Ntaganda’s victims in Ituri and sends a strong message to perpetrators of atrocities that even those believed to be untouchable can one day be held to account,” said Maria Elena Vignoli of Human Rights Watch.
Before Ntaganda’s sentencing, the longest sentence meted out at the ICC was 18 years, to another Congolese man, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. That sentence was overturned on appeal.
Ntaganda has been in ICC detention since 2013 and the time he has spent, nearly seven years, will be deducted from his sentence. He has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
Under the Rome Statute, the 2,129 victims in this case may apply for reparations, which the court will address “in due course.”