This week, Human Rights Watch, or HRW, called on the Congolese government to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, the former rebel commander and indicted war criminal who is now playing a key role (unlike the United Nations Mission in Congo, MONUC) in the joint Rwandan-Congolese operation to root out the FDLR militia in eastern Congo. HRW expressed concern that:
[T]he government is considering appointing Ntaganda to a top position in the Congolese army, despite the accusations that he had responsibility for using child soldiers, as well as for committing several atrocities in Ituri district in northeastern Congo.
HRW also raised the fact that, as Colin Thomas-Jensen pointed out on the Enough Said blog at the outset of the joint operation against the FDLR, “The Congolese government, a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC (The International Criminal Court), is in full violation of international law by failing to arrest him.”
Concerning the matter of blatantly flouting international law, President Kabila’s opinion is clear:
The option is whether to hand him (Bosco) over… or peace and security for our population in the east. For me the choice is clear… the option for us is the stability, the security of our population.
In a recent briefing by the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations on MONUC’s participation in the Rwanda-Congo joint operation, the U.N. soft-peddled Bosco Ntaganda’s role:
Obviously, MONUC’s involvement with the joint operations and the integration of CNDP will take into consideration that Bosco Ntaganda has been charged by the ICC.
The idea that international justice can wait for “peace and security” to break out poses a false choice in the peace vs. justice debate (Opinio Juris is a great resource on these matters) that is more heated than ever given the recent and expected upcoming developments in the ICC. See Enough’s strategy paper, “The Merits of Justice,” for an analysis of how justice and accountability mechanisms have directly promoted, not hindered, peace processes in past conflicts.