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Q&A with David Hooper, Defense Counsel of Germain Katanga: Part I

Interview with Mr. David Hooper, defense counsel for Germain Katanga. He spoke to the www.katangatrial.org about the main lines of defense and the witnesses that will speak in front of the Court in the following months.

Judit Algueró: What are the main lines of your defense? What can we expect to see in the upcoming months of the Katanga-Ngudjolo trial?

David Hooper: The prosecution obviously has to bring the charge and has to prove it. I think the first thing is to emphasize that we are not out to prove a case. It’s for the prosecution to prove the case. We are addressing the prosecution case and what we are saying is that the prosecution haven’t proved what they claimed they were going to prove. And a key element of that is the degree of control that Germain Katanga had over any plan, if there was, to attack the village of Bogoro. That is essentially our case; we say that he didn’t have a substantial control over that plan. That it was a plan that was created by others. In particular, by people in Kinshasa, people in Beni, people who knew about these things, both politically and militarily. And that it wasn’t even his part of the group that attacked Bogoro.

JA: In the opening statement, on November 2009, you stressed the state of degradation in which President Mobutu had left the country, which allowed other neighboring states to plunder the Ituri and the region of the Kivus. You also mentioned the involvement of President Kabila. Will you be addressing these issues?

DH: As you know the case is essentially an attack on the village of Bogoro and so we are really focusing on that. But, the general themes are still there and we will come back to address them. And part of that is correct, the interference of Rwanda and Uganda in this area and the lack of control at one point by the central government left the people where Germain Katanga lives totally exposed to the most dreadful depravation and crimes. So, the local people in this area had to form groups of self-defence. It is not as if the militia itself was unjustified, it was a justifiable response by the local people.

JA: How long will the Defense case be?

DH: I am unsure as there are so many variables, but I think we will have completed our part of the defense case by mid-June. Then it will be the co-accused’s turn. So, maybe the defence evidence will be over by mid-September.

JA: And what happens after the Defense case?

DH: There could be some further evidence called by the Prosecutor, but that will be exceptional. After the Defense case we will have to draft the defense’s closing brief, which as you may appreciate, is an absolute nightmare in these sorts of cases as there is so much material.

JA: What kind of witnesses will you call to testify in front of the Court?

DH: Well, we hope to bring about 24 witnesses including Germain Katanga if he gives evidence. I’ll advise him whether he should give evidence or not. I don’t think he needs to give evidence unless he has too. He is going to rely on my advice.

The other witnesses are a mixture of people. We’ve got some people who were pretty high up in the various groups that were established at the time. They are going to give evidence over in the coming weeks. All these witnesses, except for one or two, will give this evidence openly. They are not hiding behind pseudonyms like many of the prosecution witnesses do. Some of them, in our submission, were able to hide behind pseudonyms in order to lie.

But we are also calling people who are close to Germain Katanga in his area. Inevitably some of these people are family. But knowing the situation, it is difficult for people to come and give evidence. Sometimes you have to call family because they know what was going on and also have a motive to come and give evidence. Not to lie, but to support a family member.

We are also calling people from the other side. I will say no more about that because we are keeping that at the moment a little from the public eye, in order to protect the witness. But in due course, the man who will give evidence will give evidence openly. And he will be able to tell us something about the victims in the case, because they haven’t been, in our submission, honest. So, it will be quite interesting few weeks, I think.

JA: And these high ranked people you are talking about, are they the detainees in the DRC?

DH: Yes. In fact it is three detainees from the DRC. As far as I know they arrived in The Hague yesterday [Sunday, 27 March 2011].

We have already called as you already know one witness. That was Jonathan, who was Germain Katanga’s younger brother. And I think, watching him, people were surprised by the quality of him as a witness. It is not for me to assess the witness but I was very pleased in the way he gave his evidence.

So now we’ve got the detainees for the following seven or eight days. And the first person to give evidence is Floribert Njabu, a leading person at the FNI. He’s been a political detainee for the last six years and there is no charge. He hasn’t seen a court for about four years. No one is prosecuting him; he is not the subject of any trial. Him and the others are political detainees perhaps because they had caused trouble in the East or because they caused political problems.

Judit Algueró currently works at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. She previosly covered the Katanga-Ngudjolo trial and Lubanga trial for Aegis Trust.