The spokesman for the International Criminal Court (ICC) says the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) warlord Bosco Ntaganda will make his first appearance in court on Tuesday, March 26.
“The judges will check his identity and will inform him of his rights of a defense and also the charges that are alleged against him,” said ICC spokesman Fadi el-Abdallah.
The Hague-based court has charged Ntaganda with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court says that as leader of an armed group in Ituri, eastern DRC, Ntaganda was criminally responsible for the use of child soldiers and acts of murder, rape and sexual slavery.
The ICC has tried and convicted Ntaganda’s alleged co-conspirator, Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
“At the end of the hearing [Tuesday] the judges will set the date for the confirmation of charges in another pretrial hearing. That will allow the judges to check whether or not the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to commit the case for a trial, or whether the case should stop at this primary stage, if there is not sufficient evidence,” said el-Abdallah.
The ICC, el-Abdallah says, will provide Ntaganda with a defense attorney for his initial court appearance.
“For the time being, there is a lawyer that has been appointed by the court for the purpose of the hearing. After that, Mr. Bosco Ntaganda will have the possibility to appoint a lawyer of his own choice from the list of counsel that are authorized to present the defense interest before the ICC,” said el-Abdallah.
“Whether the court or Mr. Ntaganda,” continued el-Abdallah, “who will bear the cost that is a matter that would be decided after conducting a financial investigation. But, in the meantime, before the investigation is conducted, it will be the court that would ensure that Mr. Ntaganda is represented.”
El-Abdallah says the ICC has launched an inquiry into whether the Congolese warlord is capable of paying for his own defense attorney.
Ntaganda walked into the U.S. embassy in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, last week after his faction of the Congolese rebel group M23 was routed by fighters under a rival commander.
DRC Information Minister Lambert Mende told VOA Ntaganda’s trial is a boost to the peace process in the restive parts of the country.
“When people like Ntaganda and others will disappear in that region, we think that this will be a chance to [establish] the peace to that region. We think that there are others, but when you remove one, there is hope that this will teach a lesson to others,” said Mende.