In the end, the fears that Rwanda might “inhibit” the transfer of notorious rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda from the US Embassy in Kigali to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague did not materialize. “The Terminator” is on his way to the ICC.
Just days ago, a delegation from the ICC arrived in Rwanda to facilitate Ntaganda’s transfer. Today Ntaganda left the US compound in Kigali in a convoy of cars headed for the airport in Kigali. He was then loaded onto a private jet bound for The Hague. He should arrive in the Netherlands in approximately 8 hours if the flight is direct. Ntaganda will be reunited with his old ally, Thomas Lubanga, in the ICC’s prison facilities in Scheveningen.
According to a tweet by Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, Ntaganda’s transfer was the result of cooperation between the United States, Rwanda and the Netherlands. While it remains to be seen, it seems likely that the Dutch provided the aircraft to transport Ntaganda and the ICC delegation to The Hague. Under anti-ICC domestic legislation (The American Service-Members Protection Act), the US is prohibited from providing any funding in cooperation with the Court.
Here is what the ICC had to say:
Today, Friday, 22 March 2013, Bosco Ntaganda, against whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants, surrendered himself voluntarily and is now in the ICC’s custody. Bosco Ntaganda is currently escorted by an ICC delegation that has left Kigali (Rwanda) heading to the ICC detention centre in The Hague (Netherlands).
Upon arrival, Mr Ntaganda will receive a medical visit and will appear, as soon as possible, before the Judges in the presence of a Defence Lawyer. The date of the initial appearance hearing will be announced soon. During the initial appearance hearing, the Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber II will verify the identity of the suspect and the language in which he is able to follow the proceedings. Mr Ntaganda will be informed of the charges against him. The Judges will also schedule a date for the opening of the confirmation of charges hearing, a preliminary step to decide whether the case will be referred to a trial or not.
This is the first time that a suspect has surrendered himself voluntarily to be in the ICC’s custody. The Court is grateful for the support and cooperation of the Dutch and American authorities, both in Kigali (Rwanda) and in the Netherlands. This operation would not have been possible without the support of the Rwandese authorities.
Of course many pressing questions remain: why did the US sound the alarm in declaring its concerns that Rwanda would inhibit Ntaganda’s transfer to the ICC? Did Rwanda consider prohibiting Ntaganda from leaving Kigali? Why did Ntaganda surrender himself in the first place? Will he speak to his relationship with the government of Paul Kagame?
The answers to these questions will hopefully become clear in the coming days.
Over the coming days, JiC will add further updates as they come in. For the moment, here’s a pertinent video clip of what awaits Ntaganda: