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Witness: Ntaganda’s Troops Brutalized Ethnic Groups They Considered “Not Human”

A woman who was taken hostage by a Congolese rebel group has recounted how militiamen brutalized members of a rival ethnic group that they considered “not human,” including “savagely” raping women and men.

“They said the Lendu were useless wild animals, and we can do with them anything we want. They are not humans,” said Witness P019, while testifying for the prosecution in Bosco Ntaganda’s trial. The prosecution alleges that the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), in which Ntaganda was a senior commander, targeted members of the Lendu ethnic group during armed conflict 14 years ago.

The witness recounted how UPC fighters arrested several people who turned up for a peace meeting at a Catholic church in Sangi. Those arrested had their “wrists and feet tied up,” and some were subsequently killed, she said. The witness said she saw some women being raped.

“How do you know some of these women died?” asked prosecution lawyer Julieta Solano.

“After they were taken into the bush, we never saw them again,” replied Witness P019.

It appears that the witness was taken hostage by the UPC at the meeting in Sangi and held in a house in Kobu town. She and other hostages were ordered to carry “bags containing pillaged items.” While conceding that she did not know exactly what the pillaged items were, the witness said the items were taken from houses belonging to the Lendu, before the houses were set on fire.

During captivity, some women occasionally left the house to prepare food for their captors. She said once the women were outside the house, they were raped “in a savage way.” According to the witness, UPC fighters also raped men.

Most of Witness P019’s testimony was heard in closed session. Judges also granted her protective measures including voice and face distortion during public broadcast of the proceedings.

The witness continues her testimony tomorrow morning.