Reuters International

Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda sits in the courtroom of the ICC (International Criminal Court) during the first day of his trial at the Hague in the Netherlands September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A former Congolese rebel commander on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity has gone on hunger strike to protest at the conditions of his detention, his lawyer said on Friday.

Bosco Ntaganda faces charges for atrocities committed by his troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002-2003.

"Mr. Bosco Ntaganda has decided to stop eating,” defence attorney Stephane Bourgon said, and he will also refuse to attend court hearings.

Ntaganda is unhappy with restrictions imposed on his phone calls and visitation rights in 2014 due to concerns that he was attempting to interfere with witnesses. The measures were upheld by the court last month.

“Ntaganda has lost all faith in the court because of the way he is treated. The situation now is that my client would prefer to die than to be were he is,” Bourgon said.

Ntaganda has asked the judges if he can explain his viewpoint when the case resumes on Tuesday. It was unclear if he will be allowed to do so.

Ntaganda, whose trial began a year ago, started his military career in Rwanda when he joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front during the 1994 genocide. He later joined a branch of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), before surrendering in 2013.

He faces 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity relating to two attacks against the non-Hema population in Congo's Ituri province in 2002 and 2003. The charges include murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.

(Reporting By Stephanie van den Berg Editing by Anthony Deutsch/Jeremy Gaunt)

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