Week in Review: Congolese warlord’s trial ends, Burmese generals accused of genocide

Week in Review: Congolese warlord’s trial ends, Burmese generals accused of genocide©Dominick Reuter / AFP
UN Security Council meeting on Myanmar August 28, 2018
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In The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week concluded its hearings in the trial of former Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda.  And in New York, UN experts called for international prosecution of top Burmese army commanders accused of genocide against the Rohingya. 

Former Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda, 44, now awaits the verdict of his ICC judges. On Thursday, the last day of closing arguments, Ntaganda told the court he was a “revolutionary”, not a criminal. He is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for recruiting child soldiers and for having ordered murder, rape and looting committed by his forces in 2002-2003 in Ituri, northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “I am at peace with myself,” Ntaganda said at the end of his three-year trial. “These allegations are nothing but lies.” On Wednesday his lawyers had rejected their client’s nickname of “Terminator”, which has stuck to him. This came after prosecutors on Tuesday painted a terrible portrait of this former Congolese army officer born in northern Rwanda. His crimes include ordering some people to be disembowelled, including pregnant women, they said. The prosecution called on the judges to find him guilty of all the charges.

CAR voices against amnesty  

In the Central African Republic (CAR), where new talks have been announced between the government and armed groups, national and international human rights organizations are reiterating their opposition to any kind of general amnesty. “It is unthinkable that persons responsible for and complicit in the most serious crimes could obtain amnesty at the negotiating table, and the government should reject this idea unconditionally,” they said in a statement on August 24.

The talks, whose date and place have not yet been announced, aim to put an end to the violence that has been tearing the CAR apart since 2013. According to several concurring sources, the armed groups’ demands include not only power sharing but also a general amnesty.

Namibia and Myanmar

In a desire for reconciliation, Germany on Wednesday handed over to Namibia the remains of some Herero and Nama people killed during the colonial period in what many historians consider to have been the first genocide of the 20th century. At least 60,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama lost their lives between 1904 and 1908. The German colonial forces used several methods, including massacres, exile to the desert where thousands of men, women and children died of thirst, and concentration camps like the notorious one on Shark Island. Descendants of the victims say Germany’s gesture is insufficient, as they continue to call for an official apology and reparations.

In a report published last Monday, UN experts accused senior members of the Myanmar army of committing genocide against the Muslim Rohingya people. They said the country’s top generals, including army chief Min Aung Hlaing, should be brought to justice before an international court for the “genocide”. More than 700,000 Rohingya people fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape an August 2017 army crackdown in response to attacks by Rohingya rebels. The UN experts called for the Security Council to refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to set up a special ad hoc tribunal as it did for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

The probability of a resolution on the Rohingya “genocide” nevertheless remains low, since China and Russia would likely veto it. Reacting on Wednesday, the Myanmar government rejected the report and questioned the impartiality of its authors.