The former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda pleads not guilty to 18 charges of war crimes at the International Criminal Court today.
The 41 year old faces charges of rape, mass murder and recruiting child soldiers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ntaganda, whose brutal actions earned him the nickname “The Terminator”, is accused of presiding over the deaths of hundreds of civilians between 2002 and 2003.
Prosecutors claim the warlord masterminded ethnic massacres in the mineral-rich northeastern Congolese province of Ituri, which are thought to have claimed the lives of more than 60,000 people since 1999.
The International Criminal Court first issued a warrant for his arrest in 2006, but he managed to evade capture and instead led the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo and The National Congress for the Defence of the People – both of which are thought to have committed human rights abuses under his rule.
In 2008 Channel 4 News filmed the aftermath of a village massacre which was allegedly performed by troops under his command.
Instead, he was absorbed into the Congolese army as part of the peace process in 2009 where he was appointed a general and commander of up to 50,000 soldiers.
Whilst in the role he enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle, frequently being pictured in expensive restaurants and at sporting events despite his international arrest warrant.
In 2012 he defected from the army and created a new rebel group, the M23. It is alleged that a power struggle within the group caused Ntaganda to surrender voluntarily to the United States embassy in Kigali, Rwanda just a year after the group’s formation. Once at the embassy he requested to be sent to the Hague.
His trial is set to be the ICC’s most prominent to date. Prosecutors have amassed more than 8,000 pages of evidence and intend to call more than 80 witnesses, including more than 70 victims.
However critics have pointed out that the trial against Ntaganda only focuses on crimes committed in Ituri, which ignores numerous other war crimes which were allegedly committed by troops under his command in the following years.