Former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda will appeal a 30-year jail term handed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, his lawyers have said, adding that their client was “at peace” with himself.
Ntaganda, nicknamed the “Terminator” for his role as a military commander in a bloody ethnic conflict in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 2000s, was given The Hague-based tribunal’s longest-ever sentence on Thursday.
“Bosco Ntaganda’s defence … intends to appeal the sentencing judgement,” his lawyers said in a statement on Friday, adding that the decision by the court “contains many errors of law and fact”.
“Bosco Ntaganda is fine and remains strong. Bosco Ntaganda is at peace with himself.”
The Rwandan-born 46-year-old was found guilty in July of directing massacres of civilians in the DRC’s volatile, mineral-rich Ituri region in 2002 and 2003.
He has already appealed his conviction on 18 counts including murder, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Judges said Ntaganda was a “key leader” of the Union of Congolese Patriots rebel group and its military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), in Ituri region in 2002 and 2003.
‘Soldier, not a criminal’
Most of the charges against him related to a series of gruesome massacres of villagers carried out by his fighters.
Ntaganda – known for his pencil moustache and a penchant for fine dining – said during his trial that he was a “soldier, not a criminal” and that the “Terminator” nickname did not apply to him.
“He maintains and firmly believes that the manner in which he is portrayed in both the trial judgement and sentencing judgement reflects neither the truth nor the reality,” his defence team’s statement added.
Ntaganda is one of five Congolese strongmen to have been brought before the ICC and only the fourth person to have been convicted by The Hague-based tribunal, which was set up in 2002 as an independent international body to prosecute those accused of the world’s worst crimes.
Ntaganda’s former FPLC commander Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2012.
The ICC has suffered a string of setbacks over recent years with some of its most high-profile suspects walking free, including Ivorian former leader Laurent Gbagbo earlier this year.
It has also been criticised for mainly trying African suspects so far.