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Ntaganda Lawyer Says Child Soldier’s Testimony Motivated by Personal Gain

Stéphane Bourgon, the lead defense lawyer for Bosco Ntaganda, has claimed that a prosecution witness who is testifying about Ntaganda’s role in committing atrocities during an armed conflict is motivated by material gain. He said the witness has made new claims in order to regain victim status in the trial of Ntaganda, which she had lost in the trial of Thomas Lubanga.

According to Bourgon, what the witness said in her application to participate in the Ntaganda trial was “light years farther from what she said before” during her initial application and testimony before judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) back in March 2009, when she testified in the Lubanga trial.

“There’s a reason why Witness P-010 has suddenly added to her testimony a number of the things she said today and yesterday. One of the reasons is the fact that her status was withdrawn. In order to obtain it again she had to submit more information,” said the lawyer.

Witness P-010 testified in the Lubanga trial about her abduction and conscription in the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) at the age of 13. She also stated that she was raped repeatedly by the group’s commanders.

However, in the Lubanga judgement, judges found that they could not rely on “many aspects” of her testimony due to contraditions between her testimony and documentary evidence regarding her age at the time of the events.

The Lubanga judges also found that eight other individuals who testified as former FPLC child soldiers had provided false testimony. As a result, the judges dismissed their evidence and ordered the revocation of these individuals’ status as participating victims in that trial.

In response to Bourgon’s submissions, trial lawyer Nicole Samson clarified that, “given certain findings in the Lubanga decision and because of some documentary evidence that she may have been 17” years at the time she served with the FPLC, the prosecution was not relying on Witness P-010 as a person who was under 15 at the time. She maintained, however, that the witness did not lie on her new victim application form.

The defense lawyer nonetheless sought permission from judges to ask the witness whether court officials had informed her of what the Lubanga trial chamber concluded about her testimony before she made a fresh application to participate in the Ntaganda trial.

Presiding judge Robert Fremr noted that there was a difference in the previous testimony by the witness and what is providing currently. He instructed the defense not to question the witness in direct connection with the findings of the Lubanga trial judges. However, the defense could question the witness about discrepancies between her previous and current testimony.

Lubanga, the FPLC’s leader, was the first person to be convicted by the ICC. He is currently serving a 14 year prison sentence for the recruitment, enlistment, and use of children under 15 years-old in an armed conflict. Ntaganda, who served as the group’s deputy chief of staff, is on trial for 18 war crimes and crimes against humanity. The crimes were allegedly committed during the 2002 – 2003 armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri province.

The defense continues its cross examination of Witness P-010 on Friday November 13.