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Ntaganda Trial Resumes, Witness Recounts Looting by UPC Fighters

After a one-month break, the trial of Bosco Ntaganda today resumed at the International Criminal Court (ICC), with the testimony of an individual who described widespread pillaging allegedly committed by soldiers belonging to the militia group in which Ntaganda was deputy chief of staff.

The witness, who testified under the pseudonym Witness P815, recounted looting by Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) soldiers in several localities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during the 2002–2003 conflict. He said the soldiers looted from civilians and also pillaged “everything” from the health center in the town of Sayo.

According to the Witness P815, the UPC was made up of soldiers from the Hema ethnic group, and their hostilities were targeted at members of other groups, particularly the Lendu.

He said the UPC soldiers often asked civilians what ethnic group they belonged to. Individuals who were unable to speak non-Lendu languages of a neutral ethnic group, such as Alur, “run the risk of being harmed.”

Also in his testimony, the witness described how residents fled from various towns as they came under UPC occupation. Witness P815 and his family fled their hometown for three months during its occupation by the UPC. In many of the towns where he sought refuge, he witnessed looting by the troops. In some towns, he heard that these soldiers committed rape.

Prosecuting lawyer Diane Luping asked the witness whether he witnessed any crimes.

“What I saw with my own eyes was the looting. As for any other actions undertaken I didn’t see it myself,” responded the witness. He added: “What I heard was that the village girls were being raped. I heard about it but I didn’t see it.”

Witness P815 testified with protective measures including image and voice distortion. He is the 15th individual to be called by prosecutors to testify against Ntaganda at the ICC. Prosecutors allege that UPC troops committed crimes against civilians in Congo’s Ituri district, particularly against those of Lendu ethnicity.

Ntaganda is on trial for crimes including attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, forced transfer of the population, displacement of civilians, attacks against protected objects, pillaging, destruction of property, and use of child soldiers.

Hearings in the trial continue tomorrow, with further testimony by Witness P815.