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DR Congo warlord Ntaganda now in custody of the ICC

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Rwandan-born warlord Bosco Ntaganda was taken into custody by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday and was being flown to The Hague to stand trial on charges of war crimes in eastern Congo in 2002 and 2003.

Ntaganda surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, on March 18. The U.S. State Department facilitated his request to be transfered to the ICC.

A founder of Congo’s M23 rebel group, Ntaganda left Congo’s army last year amid fears he would be arrested and started M23. Last month, M23 split in two with a faction controlled by Brigadier-General Sultani Makenga vowing to capture Ntaganda.

The announcement of his voluntary surrender brought to an end Ntaganda's time as one of the court's longest-standing fugitives nearly seven years after he was first indicted and was a crucial step in bringing to justice one of Africa's most notorious warlords.

Nicknamed "The Terminator" because of his reputation for ruthlessness in battle, Ntaganda became a symbol of impunity in Africa, at times playing tennis in eastern Congo apparently without fear of arrest.

Despite his 2006 ICC indictment, Ntaganda joined the Congolese army in 2009 as a general following a peace deal that paved the way for him and his men to be integrated into the military. He was allowed to live freely in the provincial capital of Goma, where he also dined at top restaurants.

Ntaganda is facing seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity, according to the ICC’s website. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office accuses him of using child soldiers and “murder, attacks against civilians, rape and sexual slavery, and pillage” in Congo’s Ituri region in 2002 and 2003.

“This is a good day for victims in the DRC and for international justice,” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a news release. “Today those who are alleged to have long suffered at the hands of Bosco Ntaganda can look forward to the future and the prospect of justice taking its course.”

The Court noted that this is the first time that a suspect has surrendered voluntarily to its custody, and expressed its gratitude for the support and cooperation of the Dutch and US authorities, both in Rwanda and in the Netherlands.

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