A Congolese warlord facing 18 counts, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, is due to appear before the International Criminal Court today for a confirmation of charges hearing.
Bosco Ntaganda allegedly committed the crimes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between September 2002 and September 2003, the court said.
The pre-trial hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to formally charge Ntaganda.
Ntaganda, who denies all 18 counts, is accused of recruiting child soldiers and of running a vast extortion empire in the mineral-rich east of the DRC, according to UN investigators.
The ICC issued his arrest warrant in 2006 and reissued it in 2012 along with that of Sylvestre Mudacumura, the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) wanted for nine war crimes.
Ntaganda - formerly a top commander with the Congolese rebel group M23 - named after a March 23, 2009 peace deal the rebels signed with the government - crossed into Rwanda in March 2013 and sought refuge at the US embassy, saying he wanted to be handed over to the ICC.
A split in the M23 is reported to have forced the Rwandan-born warlord to flee to Kigali, the Rwandan capital.
Nicknamed 'the terminator' for his penchant for frontline action, Ntaganda lived lavishly, frequenting the restaurants and tennis clubs of North Kivu’s capital, Goma.
He "flaunted his impunity like a medal of honour while engaging in ruthless human rights abuses", according to Human Rights Watch.
Ntaganda is one of several Congolese warlords who have appeared before the ICC over crimes against humanity but the court has only succeeded in convicting one rebel commander Thomas Lubanga.
Source: Al Jazeera