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Judges Reject NGO Submissions on Ntaganda Trial

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have rejected an application by non-government organizations (NGOs) the Redress Trust and Avocats sans Frontières to present submissions related to victims’ participation in the upcoming trial of Congolese military leader Bosco Ntaganda.

Judges Robert Fremr (presiding), Kuniko Ozaki and Geoffrey Henderson determined that the information which the NGOs sought to present was already in the possession of the chamber.

“The Chamber is not persuaded that the proposed observations of the Applicants would assist it with the proper determination of issues related to the victims’ application process and the modalities of their participation,” stated the September 24, 2014 ruling.

The Chamber noted that lawyers representing victims, as well as the court’s Registry, had informed it of the victims’ views as to what model of application and participation of victims was the most appropriate. Furthermore, the chamber noted that parties had made submissions on the issues.

On August 29, 2014, the two organizations filed a request for leave to submit amicus curiae observations, pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. They submitted that they were “well placed to provide information and assistance that would be of direct relevance to issues before the Chamber,” particularly on various procedures by which victims may participate in the Ntaganda proceedings before the court.

Furthermore, the organizations proposed to consult victims, affected communities and other stakeholders in Congo’s Ituri province, as well as with partners in Kenya who had experience with the implementation of “the tiered application and participation system.”

For their part, victims’ lawyers stated that the benefits of the proposed amicus curiae observations were uncertain, as they had regular contacts and consultations with their clients and were therefore providing an accurate picture of their views and concerns to the Chamber.

On September 23, 2014, the defense team filed a response opposing the application on the grounds that the organizations had not clarified how their observations would add to the information already submitted to the Chamber by the Registry and the victims’ lawyers.

Rule 103(1) of the Rules states that the chamber “may, if it considers it desirable for the proper determination of the case, invite or grant leave to a State, organization or person to submit, in writing or orally, any observation on any issue that the Chamber deems appropriate.”

Redress Trust is a London-based organization that seeks justice and reparations for torture victims, while Avocats sans Frontières is a human rights and justice activist organization based in Belgium.

More than 1,120 victims are participating in proceedings against Mr. Ntaganda, who surrendered to the court in March 2013. The former deputy chief of staff of the Patriotic Front for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) is facing 18 war crimes and crimes against humanity charges which were allegedly committed by his troops against the civilian population in the 2002–2003 ethnic conflict in Ituri.

Mr. Ntaganda’s trial is expected to open at the ICC in the middle of next year.