The first witness to testify in Bosco Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has blamed inconsistencies between his in-court testimony and his application to participate in the trial on translation or interpretation errors.
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Luc Boutin, Witness P0805 stated on September 16 that the person who filled in the application form “made a mistake” by stating that his house was burned down by fighters from the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).
“The person who filled it made a mistake. In actual fact, my house was not burned down but the roof was removed,” he said. During testimony on September 15, the witness―who testified in Swahili―said the house was demolished by fighters belonging to the UPC group in which Ntaganda was deputy chief of staff.
Ntaganda is charged with murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, using child soldiers, and numerous other crimes allegedly committed against the non-Hema civilian population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri province during an ethnic conflict in 2002 and 2003.
Boutin showed the witness a copy of his application to participate in the trial and asked him whether the signature on the document was his. The witness affirmed that it was his signature. However, he conceded that he did not read the document before signing it.
“There were several people who were requesting to take part and this is a document entitled victim participation request. I was sure it had been filled properly so I didn’t have an opportunity to read it,” explained the witness.
Individuals who assist victims with completing applications to participate in proceedings are referred to as intermediaries. They may include political figures, NGO or United Nations staff, local community leaders, or government officials acting in their private capacity. Intermediaries are not ICC staff.
Witness P0805, who described himself as a farmer, testified with protective measures including image and voice distortion and the use of a pseudonym so as to keep his identity unknown to the public.
The defense lawyer also showed Witness P0805 a picture that the prosecution had presented earlier. Boutin reminded the witness that he had stated in court during the prosecution’s examination that he recognized the photograph as having been taken in the banana plantation where UPC soldiers reportedly massacred civilians.
“But in 2013 you told investigators that you did not recognize the location,” Boutin said.
The witness responded that the photograph was not taken in the banana plantation but in an adjacent location. “I remember saying I could not specify where the photo was taken,” he added.
In another photo presented in court this afternoon, Boutin suggested to the witness that an unnamed individual in the photo, who the witness had identified as civilian victim of UPC attacks, was actually a commander in the Lendu ethnic militia that fought the UPC forces.
“I don’t know if he was a Lendu commander. I know he was a farmer and gold digger,” the witness responded.
Witness P0805 first took the witness stand on September 15. His testimony has centered on the killings allegedly carried out by UPC fighters against civilians near Mongbwalu town in the DRC’s Ituri province. Under prosecution questioning this morning, the witness stated that he counted 49 bodies of slain civilians, including women and children, some only 2 or 3 years old.
Describing the scene of the massacres, Witness P0805 stated, “I saw corpses, some of their arms were tied and some were wearing underwear only and the heads of those bodies had been crushed.”
He added, “There were some bodies where the heads had been cut off, women had been disemboweled.”
Witness P0805 concluded that pestles had been used to crush the victims’ heads because he saw pestles around the scene of the massacre.
Asked why he counted the bodies, he answered, “I saw the corpses and I thought to myself that I should count the number of corpses so that I would know how many people had been killed.”
Witness P0805 completed his testimony on September 16. On September 17, the second prosecution witness will take the witness stand.