Statement by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on the conviction of Bosco Ntaganda by the International Criminal Court

Ending impunity for international crimes


UN Women welcomes the conviction of Bosco Ntaganda by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 8 July 2019 for crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002 and 2003. The former rebel leader was found guilty on 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity, including rape, sexual slavery, displacement of civilians, and enlisting and conscripting child soldiers under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities.

The conviction is significant because, if the verdict is upheld on appeal, it will be the first final conviction for crimes of sexual violence at the ICC and a major step towards ending impunity. The conviction is also notable because it is the first time that the ICC has found a defendant guilty of the crime of sexual slavery. Crimes of sexual violence are not new. Accountability for these violations, however, is a greatly needed precedent. Furthermore, the Ntaganda case is noteworthy because the defendant was convicted for sexual crimes against his own troops. This was possible because judges on the case provided a new interpretation of the war crimes of rape and sexual violence, affirming that the protection against sexual violence under international law also applies to members of the same armed forces as those responsible for the crimes.

UN Women is proud to have contributed to this verdict through the deployment of an expert investigator on sexual and gender-based crimes to the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC for the Ntaganda case, in partnership with Justice Rapid Response. The expert helped to ensure that evidence of sexual and gender-based crimes in the case was gathered in such a way as to secure all possible charges. UN Women applauds the commitment of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to pursue accountability for sexual and gender-based crimes. We will continue to partner with her Office to ensure that the Rome Statute which created the ICC is used to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

UN Women also extends its profound appreciation to the brave survivors of sexual violence who were prepared to relive their horrific experiences in order to bear witness in the case against Mr. Ntaganda. The ICC’s judgment should be followed by a comprehensive reparations decision, to support the survivors of sexual violence in the DRC in their efforts to rebuild their lives, and to end gender inequality in their communities.