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Ntaganda “Gave Order Not to Spare The Enemy”

Congolese war crimes accused Bosco Ntaganda ordered his fighters not to spare members of rival groups, according to the testimony of a former child soldier.

Testifying for the second day in Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the former soldier in the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), recalled Ntaganda’s orders on the eve of an attack on Mongbwalu town.

“The order was given that if you come across the enemy, you must hit them. That was the only order we were given,” stated the former fighter who is giving evidence under the pseudonym Witness P-010.

Asked by prosecuting lawyer Nicole Samson who the enemy was, the witness replied: “The Lendu. We were fighting against them.”

“Did he explain to you how to treat different people differently, for example civilians from combatants?” Samson asked.

“He issued the order not to spare the enemy. If we came across the enemy we had to take fast action and strike them,” replied Witness P-010. She did not say whether Ntaganda mentioned anything about how to treat civilians.

Prosecutors accuse Ntaganda of numerous crimes, including attacking civilians, rape, sexual slavery of civilians, murder, and displacement of civilians. He is also charged with rape, sexual slavery, enlistment and conscription of child soldiers under the age of 15 years and using them in hostilities.

The accused and his troops allegedly committed these crimes in 2002 and 2003, when they were members of the FPLC, which fought combatants from the Lendu ethnic community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri district. Ntaganda denies committing the crimes, claiming he only fought for peace and the return of displaced civilians to their homes.

Witness P-010 started her testimony on November 10 after judges granted her full protective measures including image and voice distortion during public broadcasts of her testimony, the frequent use of private session, and a support officer from the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit seated next to her in the courtroom. Furthemore, she was shielded from Ntaganda’s view  while in the courtroom. However, she expressed discomfort at sitting in the same room with Ntaganda, prompting judges to adjourn the day’s proceedings as they considered the possibility for her to testify via video-link.

Also in her November 11 testimony, Witness P-010 described how she and other FPLC fighters captured Mongbwalu town after two days of fighting. She said Ntaganda was among the commanders of that battle.

Mongbwalu is one of the areas where prosecutors allege that the militia commanded by Ntaganda committed atrocities. Prosecutors also claim Ntaganda personally shot the priest of Mongbwalu parish.

Hearings in the trial are scheduled to continue on November 12, 2015.