DRC: Third ex-rebel commander charged with war crimes

Friday, February 8, 2008

A third former rebel commander accused of committing atrocities in the Ituri district of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been flown to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to be tried on charges of war crimes, including murder, conscription of children and sexual enslavement, a spokesman for the tribunal said.

Col Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, a former commander of the Fronts Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI) rebel group, whose ex-fighters were recently integrated into the national army, was on 7 February flown from Kinshasa to The Hague for trial, according to Paul Madidi, ICC's spokesman in the DRC capital.

"He is accused, among things, of having played a key role in the planning and implementation of a massacre in the village Bogoro, attacking civilians of the Hema ethnic group and recruiting children under the age of 15," said Madidi. He is also alleged to have murdered about 200 civilians and carried out arbitrary arrests.

"Ngudjolo will also be charged with the sexual enslavement of many women and girls," Madidi added.

Ngudjolo, along with other former militia leaders, had in 2007 been integrated into the national army following a peace agreement that ended ethnic conflict in Ituri.

He becomes the third rebel leader from Ituri to be transferred to the ICC.

In October 2007, Germain Katanga, also known as "Simba", was put on a plane chartered by the ICC and transferred from Kinshasa to the ICC's detention centre in The Hague to face war crimes charges.

The Court in January 2007 indicted Thomas Lubanga for war crimes, specifically the conscription of children into his militia, becoming the first suspect to be taken into ICC custody.

At least 60,000 civilians were killed in attacks and revenge-attacks in Ituri between rival ethnic groups in 1999-2003, according to the UN.

Source: IRIN