ICC set trial date for 'Terminator' Congolese warlord

Rwandan-born Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda looks on during his first appearance before judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 26, 2013 (AFP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The Hague (AFP) - Former Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, nicknamed "The Terminator", will face trial next year for war crimes including using child soldiers and sex slaves in his rebel army, the International Criminal Court said on Thursday.

The Rwandan-born Ntaganda faces 13 war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity for his role in a brutal civil conflict in the DR Congo's volatile northeast a decade ago.

"The Trial Chamber scheduled the opening of the trial on June 2," the Hague-based ICC said in a statement.

Prosecutors allege that Ntaganda, who surrendered to the court in a shock move last year, was allegedly involved in raping child and women soldiers and keeping them as sex slaves.

He is also accused of using child soldiers in his Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) in attacks prosecutors say killed at least 800 people as warlords battled rival militias for control in the mineral-rich Ituri province.

Ntaganda, 40, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He is the founder of the M23 rebel group that was eventually defeated by the government late last year after an 18-month insurgency in the eastern DR Congo's North Kivu region.

The first-ever suspect to voluntarily surrender to the ICC, Ntaganda walked into the US embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali a year-and-a-half ago and asked to be sent to The Hague.

Observers said Ntaganda was possibly fearing for his life as a fugitive from a rival faction in the M23 movement, although his motives remain unclear.

The ICC had issued two arrest warrants against Ntaganda -- the first in 2006 and a second with additional charges in 2012.

He was transferred to the ICC's detention unit a few days later and judges confirmed the charges against him in June.

Fighting in eastern DRC has left some 60,000 dead since 1999, exacerbated by the wealth of mineral resources in the region, notably gold and minerals used in electronic products.

Former FPLC commander Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2012 for conscripting children under 15 and using them in hostilities.