Hague hears DR Congo's Bosco Ntaganda 'ordered killings'

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Media captionThe BBC's Anna Holligan explains how Gen Ntaganda ended up in court

Former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda ordered troops to kill and rape civilians, prosecutors say.

Judges at the International Criminal Court are deciding if there is enough evidence for him to stand trial.

"He played a key role in planning assaults against the civilian population," Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the court.

Gen Ntaganda is accused of committing war crimes a decade ago. He is yet to enter a plea, but denies the charges.

Gen Ntaganda "persecuted civilians on ethnic grounds, through deliberate attacks, forced displacement, murder, rape, sexual enslavement and pillaging," Ms Bensouda told pre-trial judges at The Hague.

"He personally used child soldiers in attacks," she said.

She has five days to convince judges that he should be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

He is not required to make a formal plea at this stage, but denies all 18 of the charges against him.

Earlier Gen Ntaganda, speaking in the Kinyarwanda language, told the court: "My name is Bosco Ntaganda. When I arrived at the ICC I was a soldier, but I'm no longer a soldier any more."

Wearing a charcoal suit and sporting his trademark pencil moustache, Gen Ntaganda listened intently, but showed no emotion as the charges against him were read.

His defence lawyer, Marc Desalliers, said Gen Ntaganda had "chosen to appear before the court because he has faith in the judicial process".

"He is confident that the chamber will see beyond the caricature presented to you by the prosecution," he said.

"The image put to you by the prosecution does not correspond at all not to the individual who stands before you today, not his life or the objectives of the movement he is a member of."

Gen Ntaganda, widely known as "The Terminator", voluntarily surrendered at the US embassy in Rwanda last March as the Congolese M23 rebel movement was fracturing.

He was once one of the ICC's most wanted suspects, accused of using child soldiers, keeping women as sex slaves, and murder.

When he appeared in The Hague soon after his surrender, he pleaded not guilty, before the judge interrupted him and said he should not enter a plea at this stage.

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Gen Ntaganda has fought for a number of rebel groups as well as the Congolese army.

He was believed to be one of the leaders of the M23 rebel movement, but the 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity he faces relate to his involvement with a different rebel group - in the Ituri region of DR Congo, in 2002-03.

He was part of the Union of Congolese Patriots rebel group, led by Thomas Lubanga - who last year became the only person in the Congo conflict convicted so far by the ICC.

Eastern DR Congo has suffered from two decades of violence linked to ethnic rivalries and competition for the control of the area's rich mineral resources, which has left an estimated five million people dead.

The unrest began when some of the ethnic Hutu militants accused of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda fled into DR Congo. Some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

Like those who have governed Rwanda since the genocide, Gen Ntaganda is an ethnic Tutsi.

Rwanda has consistently denied repeated accusations from the UN that it backed the M23 rebels, whose uprising in North Kivu province forced about 800,000 people from their homes.

Human rights groups have celebrated Gen Ntaganda's surrender to the court as a victory for international law and the victims of atrocities in the region.

But some analysts suggested his surrender was the last resort and his only chance of staying alive after splits within the M23 rebels.

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