The judge handling Congolese military leader Bosco Ntaganda’s case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has rejected a proposal for victims participating in the Thomas Lubanga trial to automatically qualify for participation in the Ntaganda proceedings.
Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova of Pre-Trial Chamber II on June 26, 2013 ruled that victims intending to participate in proceedings against Mr. Ntaganda should apply in writing, using a simplified application form issued by the chamber. She said it would be improper to grant automatic recognition and admission of victims who had participated in the Lubanga trial or any other case before the court.
Carine Bapita, a victims’ lawyer, had asked the judge to grant nine individuals already admitted in the Lubanga trial automatic recognition as victims in the Ntaganda case.
The victims’ lawyer argued that the facts for which these individuals were admitted as victims in the Lubanga case were the same as in the Ntaganda case. She noted that another chamber of the court had already examined their applications for participation.
However, Judge Trendafilova said the victims’ interest to participate in the Ntaganda proceedings could not be assumed on the basis of their participation in another case involving a different accused. Rather, “it is imperative that the victim applicants express their desire to participate in the present case concerning Mr. Ntaganda.”
Judge Trendafilova directed the court’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) to establish whether victims admitted to participate in other cases at the ICC wished to take part in the confirmation of charges hearing and related proceedings against Mr. Ntaganda. Those willing to participate would be asked to make written applications to the chamber.
A total of 129 persons were granted the status of participating victims in the trial of Mr. Lubanga, who was convicted last year of recruiting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in the Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo and handed a 14-year jail term. He is appealing the conviction and the sentence.
In the Lubanga guilty verdict, trial judges revoked the victim status for nine individuals who had testified in the trial. The judges determined that these victims had provided false testimony, including the claim that they had been child soldiers in Mr. Lubanga’s group.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Lubanga was the head of the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), while Mr. Ntaganda was the group’s deputy chief of staff.
The first warrant of arrest for Mr. Ntaganda was issued on August 22, 2006. He was accused of conscripting and enlisting children and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
On July 13, 2012, a second warrant of arrest was issued for Mr. Ntaganda over alleged crimes against humanity of murder, rape and sexual slavery, and war crimes of murder, attacks against a civilian population, pillaging, rape and sexual slavery. The alleged crimes were committed in Ituri during 2002 and 2003.
Mr. Ntaganda voluntarily surrendered to the court last March and his confirmation of charges hearings will be conducted in February 2014.
In an interview with the www.lubangatrial.org website last month, Paolina Massidda, the Principal Counsel of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims at the ICC, supported the participation of the Lubanga victims in the Ntaganda proceedings if they were willing to participate in the new case. She noted that the first warrant of arrest against Mr. Ntaganda was similar to that for Mr. Lubanga.