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Ntaganda Trial: Former Militiaman Concludes Testimony in Closed Session

This afternoon, a former fighter in the group in which war crimes accused Bosco Ntaganda served as deputy chief of staff concluded his testimony for the prosecution in Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The bulk of his testimony, including all of his cross-examination by the defense that started on Wednesday, April 13, was heard in closed session.

The former Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) fighter, who testified under the pseudonym Witness P963, took the witness stand on Monday, April 11. Under questioning by the prosecution, he recounted rapes and executions carried out by troops belonging to the group during ethnic conflict in Congo in 2003. He said the soldiers who committed these crimes openly talked about them when they returned to their camps. He said none of the perpetrators were punished for the crimes.

Testifying with protective measures, including image and voice distortion during transmissions of the proceedings, Witness P963 said the rape and murder victims were unarmed civilians whom the fighters had taken prisoner in Kobu town in Congo’s Ituri district.

Prior to the start of his evidence, defense lawyers faulted the prosecution for the manner in which Witness P963’s preparation session was conducted. According to defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon, during the session prosecutors seemed to be interested in “making sure” what the witness would say in his testimony.

Ntaganda has been on the trial at the ICC since last September. He is charged with murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, and using child soldiers, among other crimes allegedly committed against the non-Hema civilian population of Ituri district during ethnic conflict in 2002 and 2003. He has denied all charges against him, arguing that he fought for a return of peace and resettlement of refugees.

Before adjourning this afternoon, Presiding Judge Robert Fremr announced that hearings in the trial would continue on Monday, April 18, with the testimony of a new prosecution witness.