Today’s hearing in the trial of Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was cancelled because the accused’s lawyer was reported to be unwell. At the start of hearings this afternoon, Chloé Grandon, the defense team legal assistant informed judges that Stéphane Bourgon was in hospital but did not provide further details.
Presiding Judge Robert Fremr asked whether Grandon was authorized to substitute as the lead defense counsel for the day’s hearing to which she replied no. “I have no mandate to represent Ntaganda,” said Grandon.
The day’s hearing was then postponed. A new prosecution witness had been expected to start giving evidence in the trial of the former Congolese military commander whose trial opened last September.
The prosecution has called 11 witnesses to testify against Ntaganda, who is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ntaganda denies that troops belonging to the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) – the militia group he commanded – brutalized civilians in Congo’s Ituri District. The crimes, including murder, rape, pillaging, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers, were allegedly committed during 2002–2003 ethnic conflict in the region.
Just over a week ago, hearings were put off after Luc Boutin, who was the deputy counsel for Ntaganda, became unavailable at a time when lead attorney Bourgon was also not at the court. The Ntaganda defense has previously complained that a shortage of resources, including manpower, made it difficult to conduct field investigations and to sufficiently prepare for cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.
The trial is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning.