The conviction of the Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda is cause for cautious optimism that perpetrators of serious crimes cannot escape justice, even where they have evaded domestic laws. Ntaganda, known as “the terminator”, was pronounced guilty of 13 counts of war crimes and five of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. These relate to the 2002-03 ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After a 2006 indictment by the Hague court, it took seven more years for him to surrender and months more before the trial could start. The conviction follows the ICC’s 2012 sentencing of Thomas Lubanga, the first to be pronounced guilty under the Rome Statute, also pertaining to atrocities during the Congolese conflict.
Challenge before ICC
Arguably the greatest challenge today to enforce accountability transcending domestic and regional borders could be linked to the surge of nationalism around the world. The genesis of the Rome Statute, adopted in 1998, made a modest beginning to ensure that serious atrocities committed by elected representatives do not go unpunished. The refusal of major states to bring themselves under the court’s jurisdiction has dampened such hopes. It is an irony that countries this year are marking the 75th anniversary of the Bretton Woods institutions. But the new world order they sought to usher in, underpinned by a rules-based system of global governance, is facing its biggest challenge yet.