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Ntaganda Trial: Witness P894 Gives all Evidence in Closed Session

A crime-based witness called by prosecutors in the trial of Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has given all his evidence in closed session. The witness, who goes by the pseudonym Witness P894, was questioned by prosecutors for only an hour and a half, while the defense cross-examined him for three hours.

In an oral order on June 10, judges ruled that Witness P894’s prior recorded statement, along with two sketches made by him, be entered into the case evidence record in their “entirety.” Prosecutors had requested to admit the documents into evidence in order to ensure the expeditiousness of the proceedings “by reducing the time of his in-court testimony.”

In their application to judges, prosecutors stated that the brief examination of the witness viva voce would “elicit limited” evidence after confirmation of the accuracy of his prior recorded statement.

“The Prosecution seeks to be permitted to ask Witness P894 limited clarification questions, as well as specific, focused questions to explore what the Prosecution has identified to be the critical aspects of his testimony,” stated Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a confidential filing, a redacted version of which was filed yesterday.

Earlier on May 27, 2016, Bensouda had filed an application for protective measures for Witness P894. In the heavily redacted filing, it appears that the evidence by the witness related to among others, ethnic tensions in Congo’s Ituri province, an undisclosed crime of murder, and two attacks by the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia on Mongbwalu town.

According to prosecutors, Witness P894 expressed concerns about testifying publicly at the ICC because he “feared negative repercussions should his cooperation with the court become known.” It appears that the witness and his family reside in an undisclosed location where demobilized militia, including supporters of the accused, live. Despite the witness not being a target for specific or direct threats, as well as not disclosing his involvement with the court to his family members and community, he “felt insecure and unsafe.”

“The requested protective measures are necessary to avoid revealing Witness P894’s identity, bearing in mind the potential risk of retaliation from supporters of the Accused,” argued Bensouda. She added that protective measures for the witness would ensure his psychological well-being, dignity, and privacy as well as his personal security and that of his family.

Witness P894 is the 22nd individual to testify for the prosecution in Ntaganda’s trial, which opened at the ICC last September. The former deputy chief of staff of the UPC is charged with 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity. The crimes were allegedly committed during 2002-2003 while the UPC militia attempted to drive non-Hema ethnic groups from parts of Ituri.

At the opening of the trial, Bensouda said the prosecution intended to call up to 80 witnesses, including experts, insiders who worked with Ntaganda, victims, and eyewitnesses to testify about the crimes allegedly committed by the accused and his soldiers. It is not known if the prosecution still intends to call this number of witnesses.

Hearings in the trial continue on Monday, June 20, with the testimony of a new witness who goes by the pseudonym Witness P888.