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New Witness in Ntaganda Trial Testifies about Attacks by UPC Soldiers

Following an eight-week hiatus, the trial of former Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda resumed on Jan. 18 at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the testimony of a prosecution witness known as Witness P790.

Under questioning by prosecution lawyer Nicole Samson, Witness P790 recalled four attacks on Kobu and surrounding localities in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The witness said these attacks were led by soldiers belonging to the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC). According to the witness, the attacks, which took place during 2002 and 2003, forced local residents to flee to the bush.

Witness P790 said none of the fleeing residents “took anything from their homes.”

“What was the ethnicity of the UPC soldiers?” asked Samson.

“They were Hema,” replied the witness. He added that there were some Ugandan soldiers among the ranks of the attacking force.

Witness P790 testified with protective measures, including the distortion of his voice and image during public re-transmissions of his testimony. Most of his evidence was given in closed session.

Ntaganda, a former deputy chief of staff for the UPC’s armed wing known as the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), is charged with 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity. The crimes, including rape, murder, pillaging, attacking civilians, sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers in armed hostilities, were allegedly committed during 2002-2003 while the UPC militia attempted to drive non-Hema ethnic groups from parts of DRC’s Ituri province.

Since November 2015, hearings in the trial have been on a break. Prior to the start of the trial last September, judges ruled that hearings would be scheduled in blocks of five to six weeks at a time, followed by breaks of up to two weeks. At the time, presiding Judge Robert Fremr said a schedule of this nature would facilitate the work of the parties and ensure that the trial is conducted in an efficient manner.

Witness P790 is scheduled to continue giving evidence in the trial on Jan. 19.