(Nov. 19, 2019) On November 7, 2019, the International Criminal Court (ICC) handed down its heaviest sanction ever to Bosco Ntaganda, a former deputy chief of staff and commander of operations of the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC). Ntaganda was convicted in July 2019 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery, and other atrocities. He is the fourth person to be convicted by the ICC since its inception in 2002. The former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) militia leader was the first suspect in the history of the ICC to voluntarily surrender. His former FPLC commander, Thomas Lubanga, was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2012.
The ICC has faced considerable controversy from the beginning. To date the tribunal has indicted individuals solely from African countries (more than 40). Commentators have also criticized the rigidity of the Court’s approach, the ICC prosecutor’s priorities, and the political nature of the court’s decisions in refusing to accept cases “in the interests of justice.” However, the ICC remains the only permanent international tribunal that tries and punishes individuals charged with the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. In light of the controversies, two signatories to the Rome Statute have withdrawn from the ICC in recent years.