ICC sentences 30 years imprisonment to Ntaganda on 18 counts of international crimes

Image Credit: ICC
Coalition for the ICC
The highest sentence delivered by the Court.

On 7 November 2019, the Trial Chamber VI of the International Criminal Court (ICC/Court) delivered its decision in the case, The Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda, pursuant to article 76 of the Rome Statute.

The court, unanimously, sentenced Bosco Ntaganda 30 years of imprisonment and added that his detention time at the ICC, from 22 March 2013 to 7 November 2019, will be deducted from the sentence.

“While Trial Chamber VI considered that a life imprisonment sentence against Mr. Ntaganda was not warranted, this is the highest sentence ever imposed by the ICC against a defendant for the commission of crimes under the Rome Statute,” said the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) - a global network of more than 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries, today.

The sentence was deliberated considering the gravity of the crimes, the degree of harm caused by each crime, Mr. Ntaganda's level of intent and degree of participation, potentially mitigating circumstances and specific aggravating factors to the crimes.

“The Congolese population, the families of the victims and NGOs welcome this fight against impunity for serious crimes and such a sentence of exemplary, of the most severe, will contribute effectively and preventively to the discouragement and cessation of armed and cruel activities in the Great Lakes region and particularly in the eastern part of the DRC," stated Louis D'Or Kapitene Lukula, President of BERCO.

This judgement comes after Trial Chamber VI’s 8 July 2019 decision that found Mr. Ntaganda guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, as a direct or indirect perpetrator of 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity, committed in Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in 2002-2003.

These charges include murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution and forcible transfer of population as crimes against humanity, and attack on civilians and protected objects, pillaging, displacement of civilians, destroying property, enlistment and conscription of child soldiers under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities, as war crimes.

“Bosco Ntaganda’s sentence today to 30 years imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual slavery and other sexual crimes against his own troops, is an important acknowledgement by ICC judges of the gravity of the crimes suffered by the victims in Ituri, DRC,” stated Lorraine Smith van Lin, Post-Conflict Justice Lorraine Adviser at REDRESS.

“While any potential reparations orders will depend on the outcome of an appeal, the sentence is nevertheless a step forward in ensuring accountability for the crimes suffered by the victims,” Ms. Smith continued.

A total of 2,129 victims participated in the trial. Many victims of the crimes committed in Ituri have been waiting for justice for over 15 years.

“We recommend that both the Congolese authorities and the international community make every effort to ensure that the doors are not closed to the prosecution of other crimes, and other proceedings that will open up to allow victims to voice their experience through legal channels so they feel valued, heard and are treated equally that will help them regain their place in the community,” stated Eugène Bakama Bope, President of the Club des Amis du Droit du Congo (CAD).

Mr. Ntaganda's sentence of 30 years also reflects the sentencing of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Germain Katanga for the crimes committed in the DRC by the Court. Mr. Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in prison for war crimes and Mr. Katanga was sentenced to 12 years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Mr Ntaganda’s conviction is currently subject to appeals, while the decision on the sentence may also be appealed by the Defence and the Prosecution within 30 days.

“If the conviction verdict is confirmed by the ICC Appeals Chamber, this decision will represent another step towards closing the impunity gap for grave crimes committed in the DRC,” CICC continued.


On 22 August 2016, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Ntaganda for crimes against humanity and war crimes, followed by a second warrant on 13 July 2012.

On 22 March 2013, Mr. Ntaganda voluntarily surrendered to the ICC's custody.

On 9 June 2014, the charges against Mr. Ntaganda were unanimously confirmed by the Pre-Trial Chamber II.

The charges included recruitment of children under the age of 15 to military training camps and their participation in hostilities in Libi, Mbau, Largu, Lipri, Bogoro, Bunia Djugu and Mongwalu while he was leading the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC) training camp and field commanders.

On 2 September 2015, the trial was opened.

On 8 July 2019, the Trial Chamber VI found Mr. Ntaganda guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in DRC, committed in 2002-2003

From 17-20 September 2019, the Chamber held hearings on submissions from parties and participants for the possible sentence, heard witnesses and admitted evidence.

Reactions from Civil Society

Human Rights Watch Deputy Africa Director, Ida Sawyer, stated in an interview with Audrey Wabwire, Senior Press Officer East Africa, HRW, "It sends a powerful message that those who commit serious crimes against the people, no matter their positions, can be held to account. I hope it will play a role in deterring others who are still committing abuses against civilians in Congo and elsewhere. This might make security forces think twice before commanding forces to violate people’s rights, even during conflict.” Read the interview.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect, Karen Smith, welcomed the sentencing of Bosco Ntaganda and stated that, "No sentence can compensate the suffering of the victims; yet, this verdict has the power to bring some peace and a sense of justice to victims and survivors of grave violations and human rights abuses in the DRC and around the world." Read the UN official statement.

Xavier Macky of the Justice Plus NGO in Bunia said that “We welcome the fact that sexual violence charges were included in this case because those victims were left out (in previous Congo cases before the court) putting them in a very difficult situation.” Read the article.

Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice release its statement which stated that "The ICC trial against Ntaganda including today’s sentencing decision adds to the emerging jurisprudence and recognition of sexual violence against men and boys – persistently underreported and misunderstood." Read their statement.

“Bosco Ntaganda’s sentencing is a landmark victory in the global fight to hold war criminals accountable for their heinous acts.” -Stephen Rapp, @P4HR board member and former U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice.https://t.co/dB3B2TKHwK

— Physicians for Human Rights (@P4HR) 7 November 2019