- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has pleaded with the Congolese government to arrest the former rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda and hand him over for trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The rights body call came amid a proposed appointment of Mr Ntaganda to a top position in the Congolese army after ousting Laurent Nkunda, a commander of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) group based in eastern DR Congo.
According to a public letter addressed to Congolese President Joseph Kabila, HRW urged the judiciary to apprehend Mr Ntaganda for his alleged involvement in recruiting child soldiers in eastern DRC.
Mr Ntaganda who has been wanted by the ICC since April 2008 for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers is a co-accused in the trial of Thomas Lubanga, another Congo militia leader, which began on 26 January.
"For senior Congolese officials to hold a news conference with an alleged war criminal is hardly the way to promote respect for the law," said Param-Preet Singh, counsel to the International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch, further indicating that President Kabila's government has a legal obligation to arrest Mr Ntaganda, and not to promote him.
Mr Ntaganda has also been accused of commanding troops that massacred 150 civilians at Kiwanja in North Kivu province in November 2008. He also commanded troops accused of having killed at least 800 civilians on an ethnic basis in the town of Mongbwalu, in Ituri district in 2002.
"Giving an officer accused of such heinous crimes responsibility in military operations increases the likelihood of more attacks on civilians. The government is risking the lives of its people, as well as ignoring its legal obligations," said the HRW counsel.
Last month Ntaganda said he had overthrown Mr Nkunda as CNDP leader and later claimed the group had made peace with the Kinshasa government. He also put his forces at the disposal of a cross-border Congolese and Rwandan effort to oust Rwandan Hutu rebels from Congolese territory.
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