Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda was found guilty on Monday of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Ntaganda was a member of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and its military wing, the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC), during 2002 and 2003 in the eastern Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The charges against him stem from those years, in which he stood accused of participating or leading others in extrajudicial killings, rape, child soldier recruitment and other crimes committed against civilians. They include the death of Abbé Bwanalonga, an aging Roman Catholic priest at the Mongbwalu parish that Ntaganda was accused of personally shooting and killing.
In the village of Kobu, 49 civilians were found dead in a banana field. “Some bodies were naked, some had their hands tied up, and some had their heads crushed,” said the ICC in its judgment summary. “Several bodies were disemboweled or otherwise mutilated.”
The court found Ntaganda guilty despite defense lawyers who positioned their client as a professional soldier who was seeking to protect civilian populations from the ethnic violence in the region.
“While the evidence did not sustain all incidents indicated by the Prosecutor, it did demonstrate that in relation to each of the 18 counts at least part of the charges were proven beyond any reasonable doubt,” the ICC said in its press release.
The Ntaganda trial began in 2015 but that was years after the first warrant for Ntaganda was issued in 2006. He turned himself into authorities in 2013.
Ntaganda remains detained pending a decision on sentencing.