Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting Justice for war crimes in Central Africa

Not about Zimbabwe, but as I have noted before, having a tyrant like Mugabe is better than the anarchy in Central Africa.

Yet the inability to get swift justice in the face of four million dead says a lot about international courts.


Charles Ntiricya, Congolese journalist and an IWPR trainee.
Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, has made some noises about the need to end the damaging culture of impunity that pervades the country.

But, when one sees those accused of atrocities rewarded with senior positions in the military rather than standing trial, it is hard to believe that he is serious.

Impunity is one of the main driving forces behind the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC, and rewarding rather than punishing alleged war criminals sends out a very dangerous message.

It fosters resentment among the victims of atrocities, who deserve to see justice done, and reinforces the belief among rebel commanders that they can operate without accountability for their actions.

Things, however, may be starting to change.

On November 24, the International Criminal Court, ICC, began tackling its second case against former militia leaders from the DRC.

Germain Katanga, the former leader of the Patriotic Resistance Force, FRPI, and Mathieu Ngudjolo, the ex-head of the National Integrationist Front, FNI, are accused of planning the February 24, 2003 attack on the Ituri village of Bogoro, which killed about 200 people and burned much of the village to the ground.

Both men deny the charges, but, even so, the very fact that this case is now taking place at all is likely to send a strong message to rebels who are still operating in the region.

Katanga and Ngudjolo were both drafted into the national army in return for laying down their weapons, but this failed to offer the protection from prosecution that they sought. Katanga was shipped off to The Hague in October 2007 and Ngudjolo was handed over in February 2008.

But other former rebel commanders remain within the ranks of the military, reinforcing the perception that those who have been involved in the DRC's bloody conflicts will never have to answer for their crimes.

The most prominent of these is Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the ICC for allegedly conscripting child soldiers in Ituri between 2002 and 2003.
In early 2009, Ntaganda took control of the National Congress for the Defence of the People, CNDP, by displacing Laurent Nkunda as head of the militia.

He subsequently declared the war over and was admitted into the ranks of the army, along with a number of his commanders....

the problem? The girls don't fight. They are sex slaves and cooks and domestic helpers (ordinary slaves).

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