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Katanga and Ngudjolo Chronicle # 8: Second Trial of Congolese militia leaders resumes before the ICC

Please find Katanga and Ngudjolo Chronicle #8, which was originally published on the Aegis Trust website.  The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui resumes this morning with the testimony of an expert witness called by the Prosecution. Zoran Lesic (Witness 419) is a photographer who will show his photographs of Bogoro village, the place where the alleged crimes were committed.

Germain Katanga, of Ngiti origin, alledged commander of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, of Lendu ethnicity, alledged former leader of the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes, (FNI), are accused of three crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Prosecution argues that those offenses were committed during and in the aftermath of the assault on Bogoro village on 24 February 2003, as part of a widespread and systematic attack carried out jointly by the FNI and the FRPI against the Hema population in Ituri.

Mr. Lesic is a pioneer of ‘360-degree presentations’ that consist of satellite images, photographs taken by a drone and of photographs taken with his own camera. The images have been used in different case investigations in the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. “Whatever is necessary for the courtroom, a video or a photograph, that’s basically my job,” explains Mr. Lesic. In 1997, he joined the international tribunal as a visual technician at the Office of the Prosecutor, and was the first member of staff to employ this technology.

In March 2009, Lesic travelled to Bogoro village to create the visual presentation.  This was a three-day mission marked by complicated security conditions. “On the 30th we were not able to work due to the hostilities. We received information that Bogoro would be attacked,” explains the witness. Accompanied by other experts – ballistic experts, investigators, and security officers – the delegation was ordered to abandon the crime scene before sunset, at five in the afternoon.

Prosecutor Gilles Dutertre shows the 360-degree presentation to all participants while he carefully examines every picture taken by the photographer. A satellite image appears on the public screens under the title of “Bogoro, Ituri District, Democratic Republic of Congo.” The Prosecutor tracks each minor detail, slowing down the examination of the evidence.  Mr. Gilles Dutertre explores each geographical point – where Bogoro is, the road that leads to the village and even how this 360-degree technology works. At some point, the Prosecutor shows the audience a final picture of the crime scene: the Bogoro Institute. Together with the witness, Mr. Dutertre examines the building and the surrounding area.

Such attention to minor detail causes Defence Councel Mr. Andrea O´Shea to lose his patience. “I think we can perhaps shortcut some of this. We’re not going to claim that this gentleman cannot speak about this presentation but we do not qualify him as an expert legally because an expert, for us, is a witness who is relevant to an issue in the case. Photography is not an issue in the case,” says the Counsel.

After several leading questions put by the Prosecution, Mr. O´Shea cannot hide his frustration. “The Prosecution submitted a summary saying that during the examination of this witness he would be asked about the visual presentation ´to have a better configuration of the place where the crimes were committed,´ however [the Prosecution] did not say anything about a discussion on skulls…” says Mr. O´Shea. “I don’t see the relevance of these questions and we were not informed about this.”

The examination of Witness 419 concludes with a couple of questions of clarification put by Germain Katanga’s Defence. They want to evaluate the witness´s knowledge of the place where crimes were allegedly committed. Mr. Ngudjolo’s Counsel announces that he has no questions for this witness.

Witness 250, a former FNI soldier who fought at the Bogoro Battle, is scheduled to give testimony on Wednesday.