AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Judges at the International Criminal Court decided on Tuesday that the opening of the trial of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda will take place at its headquarters in The Hague, not near the site of his alleged atrocities as earlier planned.
The ICC, widely accused in Africa of being a European-dominated neo-colonial institution, has often been urged to do more to bring its work closer to the communities and victims to whom it was meant to be bring justice when it was established.
Ntaganda, known as “The Terminator” during his days as a fighter in an insurgency in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than a decade ago, surrendered to the U.S. embassy in Rwanda last March and was transferred to the ICC.
He faces 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the conflict, but denies the charges.
Lower court judges wanted parts of his trial to be held in the city of Bunia, the center of a years-long conflict between mineral-rich Ituri province’s ethnic Lendu and Hema inhabitants, so victims could more easily follow the proceedings.
Appeals judges disagreed, saying it would be difficult to guarantee the safety of witnesses and local communities if hearings were held in Bunia, and that the accused’ s return would “remind them of the suffering and trauma.”
They estimated the cost of holding some hearings in Bunia at more than 600,000 euros (434,937 pounds). Though the court has a budget of more than 100 million euros a year, it is stretched looking at alleged crimes in Africa, eastern Europe, south America and the Middle East and has been urged to cut costs.
Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Toby Chopra