War crimes suspect makes first appearance since surrendering, to face charges including murder and using child soldiers.
March 26,2013 (Aljazeera) A Rwandan-born warlord known as “The Terminator” has told the International Criminal Court he is not guilty of charges including murder, rape, pillaging and using child soldiers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bosco Ntaganda was making his first appearance before the court since his surprise surrender last week.
Ntaganda had been one of the court’s longest-sought fugitives until he unexpectedly became the first suspect to voluntarily turn himself in by seeking refuge last week at the US embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
He allegedly led rebels who terrorised eastern Congo in brutal tribal fighting from 2002-2003.
He faces 10 counts, including rape, murder and using child soldiers.
Ntaganda entered the courtroom for Tuesday’s largely procedural hearing dressed in an ill-fitting dark blue suit, blue shirt and striped tie.
My name is Bosco Ntaganda, I only have the two names, the names given to me by my parents,” he said when presiding judge Ekaterina Trendafilova asked him to identify himself.
“As you know, I was a soldier in the Congo,” he said. “I was born in Rwanda but I grew up in the Congo. I am Congolese.”
Appearing ill at ease, he leaned forward and looked down as the hearing began.
Ntaganda said “I plead not guilty” after a court official began reading the charges against him.
Judge Trendafilova then cut him off, saying he did not have to enter a plea.
Congo has suffered from two decades of instability linked to ethnic rivalries and competition for control of the eastern region’s mineral resources.
The unrest in the DRC began when some of the ethnic Hutu militants accused of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda fled into DR Congo.
Human rights activists have by and large welcomed General Ntaganda’s arrest but many feel he might have been forced to surrender after in-fighting within M23.