International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: M23

Cost-Benefit Calculations: The Case of Bosco Ntaganda

Last week, the “confirmation of charges” hearing for Bosco Ntaganda, former Congolese rebel leader of the FPLC and the M23, for war crimes concluded at the ICC. The purpose of the hearing was to determine if the Prosecutor’s office, headed by Fatou Bensouda, has enough evidence against Ntaganda to continue to trial.

The case made headlines last year when Ntaganda turned himself in at the American Embassy in Kigali, nearly four years after his indictment was unsealed, and requested to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague. His self-surrender is an interesting data point for considering whether the ICC could act as an effective deterrence mechanism. Ntaganda evidently decided that participating in his trial and being transferred to The Hague was preferable to his options in the Congo, although his reasoning for surrender was a topic of much discussion. The M23 was fracturing, eleven African countries had just signed an accord signaling their commitment to defeating the organization, and UN forces would by the end of 2013 drive the group to surrender.

Ntaganda had lost, militarily and politically, so his surrender meant that he was choosing detention and trial at the ICC over…death at the hands of other M23 factions? Certainly he stood to lose a great deal of power as the M23 split. His claim of indigence at the ICC, despite his rumored wealth, could suggest that he was set to lose financially as well. (Or, it could suggest that he would like to try to hide his wealth in favor of receiving free and high-quality legal representation, which is probably more likely.) Some have also suggested that Ntaganda was pressured by the Rwandan government, which seems credible especially because of the necessary involvement (or at least complicity) of the Rwandan government in allowing him to reach Kigali. Ultimately, however, Ntaganda’s surrender indicates that trial at the ICC is not necessarily considered a significant punishment. Joseph Kony has of course protested his indictment vociferously, but in Ntaganda’s case, transfer to the ICC removed him from a volatile and dangerous environment in which he was on the losing side. If trial at the ICC is viewed as a step above military defeat, rather than as the ultimate humiliation, its deterrent effects are likely minimal

The Meaning Behind Surrender

ntaganda Hague hears DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda ‘ordered killings’

Former Congolese rebel leader Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda appeared before the International Criminal Court this week for pre-trial hearings on 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity. News at The Hague reports that Ntaganda voluntarily surrendered at the US embassy in Rwanda last March as the Congolese M23 rebel movement was fracturing.

The question is why surrender at this point in time? For a man who has been in combat for so much of his life, why is it now his “last resort and his only chance of staying alive after splits within the M23 rebels?”

Human rights groups celebrate Ntaganda’s surrender to the court as a victory for international law and the victims of atrocities in the region, however, the admissibility of Ntaganda’s surrender remains in conformity with the prosecutorial policy of the ICC. This can create political and practical complexities that could hamper the Court’s initial role aimed to encourage national systems to fulfill their duties under the Statute and to prosecute international crimes. Does ICC policy render admissible all referrals where no action was taken by national authorities? Would this encourage “laziness” on the part of state parties to investigate and prosecute? What sorts of policies should the ICC improve on to encourage how can ICC encourage states to improve policies so that they don’t simply pass their duties onto the ICC? States benefit from referring the situation to the ICC by avoiding the financial costs of such prosecutions. If this becomes a trend, the ICC may be overburdened and end up not being able to cover cases that have even more significant judicial impact.

It makes sense to me to assume that the primary responsibility to protect the people within a state should be first, tried by the affected state concerned, so the international community would be assumed a secondary responsibility. How can the UN and ICC better reconcile the principle of sovereignty and its mandate to maintain international peace and security with the vision to promote the interest and welfare of people within the states experiencing armed conflict?

This challenges the traditional understanding of state sovereignty by allowing the international community to intervene in cases where serious human-rights violations are taking place. In the event that governments are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, is the international community the first line of responsible to protect those vulnerable populations?

Referring to ICC as the court of last resort is ambiguous in that “last resort” may imply different conditions for many states. When referrals have transferred the burden from the states to the ICC along with the political, financial, and social complexities, what is the best line of order to handle these situations, especially when ICC’s interventions have been accused as bias?

No one knows for certain why he surrendered, but there may be something to do with the deterrence of responsibility or a pressure by higher powers in Rwanda to turn himself in.

An interesting look at the “Hobbesian state of war” in Congo

Photographs like the one below, portrayed in full splendor in the New York Times website, shift our vision of the war torn Goma, Congo, into a more colorful one. These photographs were shot under an infrared lens, symbolic of the use of infrared vision during war to detect camouflaged soldiers. The plethora of pink in these photographs definitely contrasts with the gravity of its content.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 3.50.11 AM


What is the role of the international community?

Earlier this month a rebel movement known as M23 seized control of the city of Goma in the eastern Congo. In a New Yorker article, a reporter talked to a Congolese man who discusses how he believed that many of the problems in the Congo stem from there history with the international community, namely the intervention of the outside world without a full understanding of the problems faced by the people there.

This article highlights an interesting issue in the topic of international justice, obligations of the international community. Although many people believe that the international community has an obligation to help countries that are being ravaged by war, does it really? From the comments of the Congolese man, it would appear that they don’t. Maybe the international community should consider allowing countries to deal with things on their own. Given the varying degree of ideas on justice throughout the world it may be best to protect sovereignty by allowing countries to handle issues on their own. Although this may seem like an odd stance to take on international justice, it is one that should be considered. Globalization and modern technology has brought the world closer together, making everything more intertwined, but is this really a good thing?

Here is the link to the article:

Susan Rice and Failed U.S. Policy in Central Africa

Image“Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the United States] have to do is look the other way.” – Susan Rice, U.S.Ambasador to the United Nations (quoted by Howard W. French in Kagame’s Hidden War in the Congo)


U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, considered a strong candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, continues to be heavily criticized for comments she made after the attack on a diplomatic post and CIA headquarters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. However, as was pointed out in class last week, she is rarely criticized for her role in shaping U.S. policy toward Central Africa. A recent Foreign Policy article points out that she was far more involved in forming U.S. responses to the Rwandan genocide, mass violence in Burundi, and two wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo than she was in the Benghazi case. 

During a debate about whether or not to call the killings in Rwanda a “genocide” during her first year as a junior official at the National Security Council, Rice was famously quoted as asking what implication using the term would have on an upcoming congressional election. Essentially, labeling the violence genocide would mean they would have to intervene, and calling it genocide when there would be no intervention might negatively impact elections.

“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required,” Rice stated shortly after. While she has advocated for humanitarian interventions in U.S. foreign policy, her involvement in shaping U.S. policy in Central Africa has fallen far short of “dramatic action,” and has generally been characterized by a refusal to be critical of African leaders, even in the conflict resulting from Rwandan and Ugandan forces in the Congo or M23 taking control of Goma.

In her reluctance to criticize the Rwandan government’s involvement in the Congo, Rice has also blocked a U.N. report that contained evidence of Rwanda’s support of M23, insisting that the government of Rwanda should be allowed to reply first. Further, a Security Council resolution documenting Rwanda’s support of M23 has allegedly been changed to include the phrase “outside support” instead of specifically identifying Rwanda.

American policy towards Central Africa, which Rice played a key role in shaping, seems stagnant and stuck in the past. She is not exclusively responsible for the conceptually outdated and unambitious policies that have emerged, but it seems clear that her role impacted policy formation enough to prevent the U.S. from engaging much more strongly in the Congo.


How Much is £21 Million Worth?

Amidst delays in M23’s scheduled exit from Goma, and M23’s denial of being backed by the Rwandan government Britain–the largest bilateral donor to Rwanda–has decided to withhold £21 million in aid payments.  President Kagame and Rwanda’s economic and social recovery from the genocide has been widely praised by the international community as a remarkable role model for development.  This recovery has been heavily backed by donor funds, such that Rwanda has been termed by some a “donor darling.”  

Under these conditions, the international community has largely ignored President Kagame’s more authoritarian practices, such as repression, imprisonment, intimidation and murder—justified by Kagame as necessary for Rwandan unity and to prevent a return to ethnic divisionism. It is evidently harder for the international community to ignore the relationship of Rwanda with the abuses of the M23, led by ICC indicted Bosco Ntaganda.  Akhavan argues that stigmatization can alter the cost-benefit analysis of continued conflict (Sudan stopped backing the LRA after ICC arrest warrants).  The rosy view of Rwanda has been marred by its involvement with M23 and Britain is justly putting the pressure on Rwanda to decide whether it is worth £21 million to continue backing M23.  The cost-benefit analysis has been altered for the Rwandan government and if they decide the price is too high, M23 may do so as well. 

DRC Update and Ethnic Inclusion Within the M23 Rebel Group?

There has been much discussion, worldwide and in our class, on the current state of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jeffrey Gettleman has written yet another article on continued strife within the painfully broken state. As Blair Byg cited on the blog earlier this week, the M23 claimed that they will withdraw from Goma, provided that the Congolese government meet a list of demands. This statement was released from the M23 political wing head. According to Gettleman, however, “a rebel spokesman, said: ‘There are no conditions. We are withdrawing our troops starting tomorrow.’” Gettleman notes that there is much confusion around the M23’s future plans. The organization has released two vastly different statements and no one seems to be sure what is going to happen. What is more interesting is highlights of ethnic diversity within the M23, which may point to a more ethnically inclusive region.

The M23, who, contestably, control the Democratic Republic of Congo, apparently have a tradition of promoting non-Tutsi political leadership. Gettleman states: “The M23 rebels have made a major effort to promote non-Tutsi to civilian leadership positions, broadening their base of support and making them an even more pernicious threat to Mr. Kabila (a Tutsi). What is interesting is that the majority of top officers within the M23 are Tutsi. Additionally, the military and police infiltration that has occurred in the DRC, includes many Tutsi Rwandans. As noted by Gettleman, the Rwandan military is control by Tutsis and has progressively been included in the M23 rebel movement. While, of course, serious questions of corruptions arise with this information, another question of ethnic inclusion does as well. While the M23’s promotion of non-Tutsi leadership is clearly a political one, this may represent crucial improvements of ethnic coexistence with the area’s society. Is the eastern DRC/Rwanda area fully reconciling from past wounds of genocide, ethnic discrimination and hate?

Rebels Withdrawing from Mashake in DRC

The news that the M23 rebel group is withdrawing from Mashake, part of the area they’ve been holding since last week, was just released:

The article states that “‘M23 themselves are saying they want a demilitarised zone around Goma. They’re very concerned that people who’ve been working with them in the city will be targeted once they leave, if the Congolese army comes in.'”

However, they are refusing to withdraw from Goma until they’re satisfied with the terms of the agreement with the DRC government. The withdrawal deal that is underway is supposed to contain terms for a neutral zone around Goma, decide who will have control of the Goma airport, and “how to set up a proposed international neutral force for DR Congo”.

It will be interesting to see if these terms are enough to satisfy M23 and enough to prevent retaliation from the Congolese army in the areas previously occupied by M23.

Rwanda-Congo deja vu?

After discussing the M23 rebel group and the growing conflicts in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I was curious as to how this conflict was being covered in the main stream news. Today, the Huffington Post published an article titled “Rwanda-Congo deja vu” which highlighted the conflict as an extreme threat to Rwanda, as well as the DRC. The article paints a picture of a conflict fueled by Rwanda’s quest for land and resources that is shaping up to be be similar to conflicts the country has faced in the past. Written with a strong point of view that Rwanda is aiding the M23 rebel group, the article also hints at the negative findings that will be revealed in a document that the U.N. is set to release on Friday.

In line with today’s class discussion centered around themes discussed in the movie, I found it very interesting to find multiple comparisons to the past situations and crime in this article. Much like view in the movie, this article seems to “hold” Rwanda’s past over the current situation. The article seems very quick to accuse Rwanda of wrong-doing by partly using the reasoning of past situations. No matter the outcome, it will be very interesting to read the U.N. group of experts’ report on Friday and  observe the security council’s actions. Especially with Rwanda’s seat on the council. An article published in The Atlantic further detailed the influence Rwanda’s seat could have moving forward explaining, “with a Security Council seat, the Rwandan government will have direct influence over the bodies empowered to investigate and sanction countries and individuals who stoke conflict in the DRC.” It seems as if Rwanda’s “pr machine” as referenced in lecture might be fueled for a long time to come.

The Issue of Maintained Impunity for Rwanda

While I was in Rwanda this past summer, a report was leaked about Rwanda’s alleged sponsorship of the M23 rebel group in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda’s tumultuous neighbor to the west. (For some background, read this.) Surprisingly, this conflict is still in the news. I say that this is surprising, because there has been a general trend of the international community ignoring over a decade’s worth of human rights abuses going on between those two countries and in the region as a whole. Additionally, another report has just come out stating Uganda’s involvement in the conflict.

There is a long list of reasons why Rwanda should not be sponsoring this rebel group. For starters, it’s illegal on many grounds according to international legal standards. First of all, there is an arms embargo in place for the DRC, so any supply of arms to this country is illegal. Second of all, the motivating issue for the M23 rebel group is supposedly a Congolese issue, which is one of the reasons Rwandan President Paul Kagame has given in his denial of M23. Also, Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of the Rwandan sponsored rebel movement, which many argue is a spin-off from the CNDP, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. These are all blatant violations of international law that have been committed by the Rwandan government.

How has the international community’s allowance of Rwandan impunity affected its post-conflict transformation? I believe that this impunity afforded to Kagame and his government has led to its ability to and justification for maintaining a conflict over the border in the DRC for many years, contributing to the deaths of a vast number of Congolese people. This regional instability cannot be good in a region where the argument for comprehensive transitional justice is a very strong one.