Has the ICC finished in Ituri?

18 February 2008 by Emmanuel Chicon and Benjamin Bibas

"It is the first time that a free ex-militia leader in Ituri has been handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC)", said the Office of the Prosecutor after Mathieu Ngudjolo was arrested on February 6 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ngudjolo, the former head of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI), led a Lendu militia opposed to Thomas Lubanga's primarily Hema Union of Congolese Patriots. Lubanga and Germain Katanga, commander of the Congolese Patriotic Resistance Forces (FRPI) which was allied with the FNI, were already in custody in the DRC before being transferred to The Hague.

Ngudjolo's arrest comes after his promotion, in October 2006, to colonel in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). The same year, Ngudjolo had signed an agreement with Kinshasa to disarm and integrate his forces into the national army. Protected by an amnesty from the government, he arrived in Kinshasa in November 2007 for military training alongside other reintegrated Ituri rebel leaders like Peter Karim and Cobra Matata. Crucially, though, the government amnesty excluded crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction.

Like Katanga, Ngudjolo must answer for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during an attack led by the FNI and the FRPI in which at least 200 Hema civilians were killed. The prosecutor maintains that "the morning of February 24, 2003, in collaboration with our other suspect, he ordered his men to attack and 'wipe out' the village of Bogoro". With this case, the prosecutor plans to prove the existence of a "common plan" between Katanga and Ngudjolo, who were commanding the major Lendu militias. During a closed-door hearing at The Hague on February 12, the prosecutor requested a joint trial for the two defendants.

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