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Former UPC Insider Says Rape by Soldiers Went Unpunished

The second witness to testify against Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) told trial judges that troops commanded by the accused raped girls and women at check points outside towns they controlled, but no one was punished.

“This is not hearsay. These [rapes] are things that I saw with my own eyes and they didn’t happen at just one checkpoint. They happened at several checkpoints,” he said. The witness, a former insider in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC)—of which Ntaganda was allegedly deputy chief of staff—testified under the pseudonym Witness P-0901.

“Was there disciplinary action [against the perpetrators]?” prosecuting lawyer Nicole Samson asked the witness.

The witness replied that except for one case in which a perpetrator was identified but who later fled, he did not know of anyone who was punished over the rapes.

He explained that the roadblocks were set up in areas controlled by UPC with the aim of extracting food, money, and fuel from travelers.

Meanwhile, Witness P-0901 also stated that the group commanded by Ntaganda displaced members of the Lendu ethnic community from towns and villages they occupied during 2002 and 2003. According to the prosecution, the UPC was predominantly made up of members of the Hema ethnic group—although Ntaganda himself is of Rwandan Tutsi origin.

“After the FPLC took control of Mongbwalu, most of the Hema people went to live there,” Witness P-0901 said, referring to the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, the UPC’s armed wing.

“Did the Lendu continue living there?” asked Samson.

“No, I don’t think so,” replied the witness, who testified with protective measures including image and voice distortion to protect his identity. Most of his testimony was given in closed session.

The witness stated that only Ntaganda and the group’s chief of general staff Floribert Kisembo could authorize UPC soldiers to go to battle.

Ntaganda is charged with attacking civilians, displacement of civilians, murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, and using child soldiers, among other crimes allegedly committed against the non-Hema civilian population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri district during the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict.

When he addressed the court earlier this month, Ntaganda stated that contrary to prosecution allegations, he was a revolutionary who fought for a peaceful return of Congolese who had been chased from their homes. He said he fought “to restore peace without ethnic discrimination” in Ituri.

Witness P-0901 continues his testimony tomorrow morning, September 22, 2015.