THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday urged judges to convict two Congolese warlords of commanding the fighters who wiped out a village in 2003, killing more than 200 civilians, including women children and the elderly.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that evidence presented at the trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo proved they "are guilty beyond any doubt" of carefully planning and executing the Feb. 24, 2003, attack on the village of Bogoro.
Bensouda spoke at the start of closing statements in Katanga and Ngudjolo's trial, which began in November 2009 and has heard testimony from more than 50 prosecution and defense witnesses, including former child soldiers involved in the attack and survivors of the massacre.
"They testified about hiding to save their lives, they testified about their family members and friends being butchered," Bensouda said. "One witness described how he was kept overnight in a classroom filled with dead bodies of civilians including children, women and elderly who had been killed by machetes."
Women living in Bogoro were repeatedly raped and some of them captured and turned into sex slaves for fighters, Bensouda said.
The two men insist they are innocent. Their defense lawyers will sum up their case later this month.
Katanga and Ngudjolo are accused of using their militias to fight rebels led by Thomas Lubanga, who in March became the first person convicted by the court since its establishment 10 years ago. He was found guilty of conscripting and using child soldiers and will be sentenced later this year.
On Monday in New York the court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that he was seeking the arrest of a further Congolese rebel commander and expanding the indictment against another.
Moreno-Ocampo is seeking the arrest of Sylvestre Mudacumura, commander of a brutal militia that has terrorized eastern Congo for years, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, torture and attacking civilians.
Mudacumura is the field commander of the FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, whose leaders are believed to have taken part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Its members include extremist Hutus, who took cover in neighboring Congo after the end of the mass killings which claimed the lives of a half a million people, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group.
Ocampo also announced that he is seeking an expanded warrant on similar charges against rebel leader Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, a former general in Congo's army.
Ntaganda is accused of using child soldiers for fighting in northeastern Congo from 2002 to 2003. He was first indicted on war crimes charges in 2006.
Moreno-Ocampo called Mudacumura and Ntaganda two of the most dangerous militia leaders in Congo.
"We hope arresting them will mark a significant change in the violence that has been afflicting the region for the last 18 years," he said.