International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Former UPC Insider Testifies About Militia’s Communication Systems

A former officer in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) testified on October 21 about the militia group’s communications systems, deployed across the various towns under their control in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Testifying in the trial of the group’s former deputy chief of staff Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the unnamed witness described the short-range radios, satellite phones, and portable phone base stations used by the UPC during the 2002 and 2003 ethnic conflict in the DRC’s Ituri district.

Under cross-examination by the defense, the witness stated that the group used Motorola and Kenwood short-range radios and Thuraya satellite phones. They also had phone base stations that could be used to communicate over a long distance and which could encrypt messages. Such base stations were in the towns of Bunia, Aru, and Mongbwalu, where the UPC maintained zonal commanders.

The witness was also questioned about the military training he underwent. But this examination was in closed session, as was most of his testimony that started on Monday. The witness was granted in-court protective measures to conceal his identity. When he first took the witness stand, the witness also asked trial judges to grant him immunity against self-incrimination.

On Monday, the witness said UPC commanders, including Ntaganda, condoned pillaging by the group’s soldiers. He spoke of gold that was purportedly looted by Ntaganda from Mongbwalu town and transported by his cousin to the UPC headquarters in Bunia. The witness also stated that he saw the corpses of “many civilians,” including women and children, who had been killed during fighting involving UPC troops.

Ntaganda is on trial at the ICC for 18 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In their June 2014 confirmation of charges decision, pre-trial judges found that there was enough evidence to charge Ntaganda with individual criminal responsibility as a direct perpetrator, indirect co-perpetrator, and military commander for crimes committed by the UPC against the non-Hema civilian population of Ituri between August 2002 and May 2003.

Hearings in the trial are scheduled to continue on Oct. 22.

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