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Defense Lawyers Challenge Former UPC Fighter’s Knowledge of Militia’s Workings

Lawyers representing Bosco Ntaganda in his war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have challenged the evidence of a former insider in the group where the accused served as deputy chief of staff  in 2002 and 2003. Over the past two days, the lawyers have called into question the evidence of the ex-militiaman regarding a military training camp that was located at Mandro in the Ituri district of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Witness P907 recounted an event at the camp when all troops were gathered to witness the execution of a soldier who had attempted to escape.

“I suggest to you that there were never any recruits executed at Mandro,” defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon told the witness. However, the witness insisted that one soldier was executed at Mandro. The witness, who testified anonymously, did not disclose the name of the executed soldier in open court.

The defense lawyer also put it to the witness that the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) camp he described in his testimony, where “thousands” of recruits were trained during July 2002, was not at Mandro. “Contrary to your testimony there was never more than 800 troops being trained at Mandro,” Bourgon said.

Most of the cross-examination of Witness P907 was conducted in closed session. However, in the brief moments when the defense questioned him in open court, it was evident Ntaganda’s lawyers were attempting to punch holes in the truthfulness of the account given by the witness and his knowledge of the workings of the UPC. The witness, the 18th to testify for the prosecution in Ntaganda’s trial, concluded his testimony this afternoon. He was granted protective measures in order to keep his identity secret and given assurances by judges against self-incrimination during the course of his testimony.

Witness P907 started testifying on Monday, April 25. Under questioning by prosecutors, he stated that there were “thousands” of recruits at the group’s training camp at Mandro, some of whom were children aged 10 or 12 years old. He also said that the children endured the grueling training for fear of being shot if they attempted to escape.

During today’s hearings, a video excerpt was played to the witness. The video showed Ntaganda and other senior UPC officials inspecting troops and weapons. In earlier statements to prosecutors, Witness P907 stated that the video was shot near a school field where UPC parades and gatherings were held.

“I suggest to you that what you saw on this video, same as what you saw yesterday, is the training camp at Mandro, and you were not able to recognize the place as such. Is that correct?” said Bourgon.

“The day prosecutors showed me the video, there was sound. This is not the case now,” replied the witness. He added that he could not remember the exact date of the occasion portrayed in the video and that he was likely not present at the time.

Hearings are scheduled to continue on Monday, May 2, with the testimony of a new prosecution witness who goes by the pseudonym Witness P887.

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