Victims of Former Congolese Warlord Awarded $30 Million

The award is the largest financial penalty ever handed down by the International Criminal Court.

Former Congolese militia commander Bosco Ntaganda enters the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool, File)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — Former Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda was ordered by the International Criminal Court on Monday to pay $30 million in compensation to his victims. 

“[The Chamber] particularly took into account the victims’ wish not to be granted any form of memorialization or other types of symbolic reparations unless they serve practical purposes,” Presiding Judge Chang-ho Chung said in The Hague courtroom. 

Ntaganda, wearing a grey suit and a surgical mask, was reactionless as the presiding judge read out the decision. The award will not be paid individually but will instead fund initiatives to help the case’s official 2,129 victims, including 248 child soldiers. 

The 48-year-old was convicted in 2019 of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including include murder and attempted murder, attacking civilians, rape, sexual slavery of civilians, pillaging and conscription of child soldiers younger than 15 – for his involvement in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, from 2002 to 2003.

Later that year he was sentenced by the ICC to 30 years in prison, the longest sentence ever given by the world’s only permanent court for atrocity crimes. During his sentencing, judges cited several especially heinous crimes Ntaganda was convicted of, including murdering a priest and ordering his troops to rape three nuns, who still refuse to speak about what they experienced. 

Ntaganda served as chief of military operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots, an armed political group that was formed during the Second Congo War. Its founder, Thomas Lubanga, became the first person to be convicted by the court in 2012. He was released in 2020 after serving a 14-year-sentence for similar crimes. 

Ntaganda himself is not expected to pay anything. He was declared indigent by the court, though Judge Chung encouraged the court to continue investigating if he had undeclared assets.

Instead, the judge asked the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims to arrange for compensation. Established by the same treaty that created the court in 2002, the Rome Statute, the fund implements reparations and provides assistance to victims. 

“This is an important step in responding to the long-lasting harm that victims in this case have suffered. The TFV is fully committed to ensuring victims in the Ntaganda case receive the collective reparation awards with individual component as ordered by the court,” the group said in a statement.

However, it’s unclear when, or even if, the money will reach Ntaganda’s victims. The TFV itself is chronically underfunded and Chung asked the organization to fundraise the money.

“The chamber encourages the Trust Fund for Victims to complement the reparation awards to the extent possible and engage in additional fundraising efforts as necessary to complement the totality of the award,” the judge said.  

As of 2020, no victims from the Lubanga case had received assistance. 

Though a peace agreement was signed in 2003 in the DRC, the area remains unstable. The Italian ambassador to the country was killed last month when the United Nations convoy he was traveling with was attacked by militant groups. An estimated 5.4 million people have died in the conflict.

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