Only Bosco Ntaganda’s troops were in the Congolese town of Kobu and surrounding villages at the time it was attacked in March 2003, said a prosecution witness in Ntaganda’s trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Were there Lendu combatants defending villages when residents fled into the bush when the enemy arrived?” asked defense lawyer Luc Boutin.
“No, there were no Lendu combatants there,” replied Witness P-016, during his testimony on Wednesday, Nov. 4. He added, however, that he heard that members of the Congolese Popular Army (APC) rebel group were in the neighboring town of Djatsi.
On November 3, during the first day of his testimony, Witness P-016 described massacres in Kobu which he said were committed by soldiers from the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) group. He recounted how he discovered the bodies of his father who had been shot dead, and his wife and children who were decapitated during the attack on his village.
He stated that there were “many” other bodies which “had been decapitated and disemboweled” by troops from the FPLC, whose deputy chief of staff was Ntaganda.
Judges granted Witness P-016 the use of an in-court pseudonym but his image and voice were not distorted. Most of his cross-examination by the defense was done in closed session.
Prosecutors charge that Ntaganda’s group was predominantly made up of members of the Hema ethnic group and that it persecuted non-Hema civilian populations, such as the Lendu, in a bid to drive them out of several areas the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002 and 2003. It is alleged that Ntaganda, 41, commanded and on some occasions personally participated in committing crimes including murder, rape, attacks on civilians, and pillaging.
During cross-examination of Witness P-016, defense lawyer Luc Boutin highlighted inconsistencies between the witness’s in-court testimony and the statement he made to prosecution investigators in 2005 about his knowledge of the identity of the Kobu attackers.
According to the witness’s testimony, he heard from fellow residents immediately after the attack that it was the work of “Bosco’s men” because “the Hema could act in such a way.”
However, in his 2005 statement, the witness told investigators that he was told who was allegedly responsible within one month of the attack.
“So what the prosecutor reports as having been your word is not correct. Is that what you are saying?” Boutin asked.
“No, that wasn’t what I said. I said during the conflict is when we learnt that it was Bosco’s group that had done that [attack]. I didn’t speak about a month,” replied Witness P-016.
Hearings in the trial are scheduled to continue on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.