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Ntaganda’s Lawyers Cross-Examine Witness P790 in Closed Session

Bosco Ntaganda’s defense has concluded its cross-examination of the prosecution’s Witness P790, with most of the questioning conducted in closed session. The witness, who started testifying in the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday last week, was cross-examined by the defense on January 21 and January 25.

In the brief moments of open court, defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon challenged the witness’s account of events, including an account about five houses where soldiers belonging to the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) stored heavy and light weapons. The lawyer said the houses did not exist at the time.

“My narration is based on facts, which I saw with my own eyes. No one told me about this,” answered the witness.

Bourgon also highlighted discrepancies between the in-court testimony of the witness and statements he made to prosecutors earlier regarding what child soldiers in the FPLC wore. In his statement to prosecutors, the witness said the child soldiers did not wear military boots, yet in court he stated that they wore boots. Witness P790 said one particular child soldier who was in the personal escort of senior FPLC leader, Commander Salumu, had no boots, but other child soldiers wore boots.

The defense lawyer also questioned the witness about an incident when he went to see Commander Alpha, who led a Uganda army contingent that fought alongside the FPLC. The witness affirmed that he went to speak to the Ugandan commander about the problems in his home town of Kobu. The Ugandan is alleged to have ordered that the witness be shot. Subsequent questioning about the meeting was conducted in closed session.

Witness P790 gave some of his evidence in open court, although judges granted him protective measures, which included the use of image and voice distortion as well as the use of a pseudonym to hide his identity.

During questioning by the prosecution, the witness said FPLC soldiers attacked his home town and surrounding localities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) up to four times during ethnic conflict in 2002 and 2003. He said he counted the bodies of 57 civilians, including children and women, who were killed by soldiers from the group in which Ntaganda was a top commander.

Ntaganda, the former deputy chief of staff of the FPLC, is on trial at the court based in The Hague over 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, and use of child soldiers among others. The alleged crimes, which Ntaganda denies, were committed in Ituri district in the DRC during 2002 and 2003.