On the second day of his testimony in Bosco Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), a witness recalled that he counted 57 bodies of civilians killed by soldiers from the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), the group commanded by Ntaganda.
He said the FPLC fighters killed civilians in Kobu and surrounding towns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri district, after the militia overran these territories during the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict.
“I saw bodies of children, women and young people,” recalled the witness. Some had been beaten to death while others had been disemboweled. “There was one pregnant woman. They cut the fetus out of her,” testified Witness P790. He said the 57 bodies he saw were of Lendu ethnicity.
Witness P790 said he encountered the bodies in a banana plantation and along the roads between the towns of Kobu, Djatsi, Jitchu, Kilo, Sangi and Buli, as he tried to find the remains of his children who had also been killed in the attacks. However, he was unable to find the remains of his children. The circumstances surrounding the death of the children were not discussed in open court.
Trial judges granted the witness in-court protective measures in order to protect his identify. During testimony, his image was concealed from public view, his voice was distorted, and some of his testimony was heard in closed session.
Prosecution lawyer Nicole Samson presented to the witness a number of photographs showing piles of dead bodies. The witness said the photographs were taken in the same banana plantation where he went to look for his children’s remains.
Yesterday, Witness P790 recounted four attacks against his hometown of Kobu, which he said were carried out by the FPLC, the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), with the assistance of Ugandan soldiers.
In his testimony today, the witness stated that “all the houses” in Kobu and surrounding towns were burned down by FPLC troops. Only a few houses and a church in Buli remained standing, he said.
Under cross-examination, Witness P790 rejected defense suggestions that there were other militia groups present in and around Kobu at the time of the alleged attacks.
“If I put it to you that in actual fact, Ugandan forces with the APC (Congolese Popular Army) forces were present in Kobu and were conducting military operations at the time, would you be in agreement?” asked defense lawyer Luc Boutin.
“I was there at the locality and I was able to see various soldiers there. I did not see APC soldiers. I only saw soldiers from the UPC and Ugandan soldiers who had taken up position in Kobu,” replied the witness.
The witness added that the UPC and Ugandan soldiers were identifiable by their attire and the languages spoken. “Some (UPC soldiers) spoke their mother tongue. Sometimes they spoke Swahili. There is a difference between Congolese and Ugandan Swahili. These proved we were dealing with UPC and Ugandan soldiers,” he said.
The defense continues its cross-examination of Witness P790 on Wednesday, January 20.