Arrest warrant for DRC commander

Ally of renegade Tutsi leader Laurent Nkunda is accused of recruiting child soldiers.

     A file photo of Lubanga, a former Ntaganda associate who is due to face trial at the ICC in June [AP]

    Ntaganda is a former associate of Thomas Lubanga, the leader of the armed Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which is accused of a series of human-rights violations in the northeast of the country.

    Lubanga, who is due to stand trial at the ICC in the Hague, The Netherlands, on June

    23, is also facing trial for recruiting child

    soldiers.

    Along with Lubanga, two other rival Congolese leaders

    are in detention at the ICC, the world's first

    permanent war crimes court which was set up in 2002.

    Sealed warrant

    The warrant against Ntaganda was issued under seal in

    2006 and relates to his role as deputy chief of the

    military wing of UPC, which is accused of sending

    child soldiers to fight in Ituri district in 2002-

    2003.

    The court said it had decided to unseal the warrant

    because it no longer believed it might endanger

    witnesses.

    Ntaganda, who fought on the side of Rwandan-backed

    rebels when war broke out in the DRC in 1998, returned

    to his native province of North Kivu in 2006, where he

    joined Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of

    the People (CNDP).

    Moreno-Ocampo's office said there were credible

    reports that say the CNDP was involved in "sexual

    crimes of unspeakable cruelty".

    "If Laurent Nkunda is truly committed to the Goma

    peace agreement, then he should immediately deliver

    Ntaganda to the international court," Anneke Van

    Woudenberg, a senior researcher with New York-based

    Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

    But Rene Abandi, a CNDP spokesman, said the ICC's decision

    to indict Ntaganda is "counter-

    productive".

    "Justice exists for the betterment and construction of

    society, not its destruction," Abandi said.

    The prosecution said it expected more applications for

    arrest warrants relating to its investigation into

    crimes committed in the Kivu region and into the

    funding behind the fighting.

    Faltering pact

    Three months ago the DRC

    government signed a peace deal with rebel

    groups in the east.

    But humanitarian workers say a lack

    of security is still hampering their efforts to help

    thousands of displaced people.

    The conflict in the eastern province has continued

    long after the official end of a 1998-2003 war.

    The fighting pits Congolese Tutsi fighters against

    Rwandan Hutu FDLR fighters and also involves the army

    and other resistance groups.

    The roots of the conflict lie in the 1994 Rwandan

    genocide in which Hutu fighters killed about 800,000

    Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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