The Deputy Director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) testified Wednesday in the trial of Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Appearing for the prosecution, Anneke Van Woudenberg was questioned about her prior recorded testimony, reports she researched and authored, as well as associated documents.
Van Woudenberg’s statement, which judges admitted into evidence in an oral ruling on June 20, was recorded by investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor in October 2013. According to prosecutors, in her statement she provided information on her background, the research methodology of HRW, and information collected in relation to the armed conflict in Congo’s Ituri district between July 2002 and the end of 2004. The statement also relates to field missions in Ituri, interviews with victims of sexual violence, and meetings with rebel leaders Thomas Lubanga and Ntaganda.
Prosecutors sought the admission of the HRW official’s statement, her reports titled The Curse of Gold, Covered in Blood: Ethically Targeted Violence in Northern DRC, and Seeking Justice: The Prosecution of Sexual Violence in the Congo War, into evidence “to enhance the expeditiousness of the trial by reducing the length of her in-court testimony.” Among the related documents also tendered into evidence were 12 photographs taken by the witness of a “garage” in Bunia that was purportedly used by the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia as a “place of detention,” military office, and Ntaganda’s residence. The other documents include notes made by the witness during her interviews with Ntaganda and Lubanga, and videos.
During an hour-long questioning by prosecution lawyers this afternoon, Van Woudenberg confirmed the accuracy of her statement. Extracts of the statement, some of which were read out in court, included accounts of victims of sexual violence perpetuated by all armed groups in Ituri – including the UPC – and the presence of armed children who “looked 12 to 15 years old” in Lubanga’s personal guard.
The UPC was among various armed groups that were involved in ethnic conflict in Ituri during 2002-2003. As the group’s then deputy chief of staff, Ntaganda is on trial at the ICC over murder, rape, pillaging and the use of child soldiers, among other crimes. Lubanga, the group’s former leader, is currently serving a 14-year jail sentence following his conviction for the use of child soldiers in hostilities.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ntaganda’s lawyers concluded cross-examination of the 23rd prosecution witness who testified under the pseudonym Witness P888. The cross-examination was closed to the public. Witness P888, who started testifying in the trial on June 21, is a former fighter in the UPC.
Hearings continue Thursday morning with the defense cross-examining Van Woudenberg.