A professor of forensic medicine, who conducted clinical examinations of four victims of alleged attacks by members of Bosco Ntaganda’s Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) rebel group, has testified about the extent of injuries suffered by the individuals she examined.
Dr. Sophie Gromb Monnoyeur, who heads a university hospital in France, has produced four reports on the physical effects of trauma with respect to four prosecution witnesses (P-0018, P-0019, P-0108, and P-0113). Today, she testified that although she was able to establish the nature of some physical injuries suffered by the individuals she examined, in some cases she could not reach definite conclusions because of the time that had elapsed since the injuries were inflicted.
According to Monnoyeur, by examining scars of injuries suffered, listening to victims’ explanations, and studying old documents related to the injuries, she reached conclusions about the likely cause of some injuries. However, for some injuries it was not possible to determine the particular instrument that caused the damage.
The individuals who were examined were victims of attacks purportedly committed by UPC soldiers more than 13 years ago, when the UPC militia was one of the armed groups involved in ethnic conflict in Congo’s Ituri district. Ntaganda, who served as UPC’s deputy chief of staff, is on trial at the International Criminal Court over several crimes allegedly committed by himself and his soldiers.
The expert explained that besides listening to victims’ complaints about “pain and functional discomfort,” she clinically examined each of them, asking them to walk with different postures, and “if possible…looked at the victim’s muscles and conducted neurological examinations.”
The expert was also questioned about injuries to the genitals of rape victims. “How do you characterize healing time in which injury might be observable by a forensic expert?” prosecution lawyer Eric Iverson asked.
“Where the hymen was intact before the [rape] act, the [observable] injury can disappear within 10-15 days and for such injury to heal it extends to 15 days although the defloration remains,” Monnoyeur responded.
In Congo, where she examined victims of violence and aggression that included the use of objects, healing would take much longer. However, she added, “I have examined thousands of victims of sexual assault, and it is difficult to find signs after several years.”
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Marlène Yahya Haage, Monnoyeur said that whereas she was not in Congo at the time injuries were inflicted, meaning she did not examine the injuries while they were fresh, her conclusions were consistent with what the victims said they suffered.
However, the defense challenged the expert’s methods, particularly examinations of bone injuries upon which some of her conclusive observations were based.
“I might have been able to be more precise regarding bone injury I evaluated by physical examination,” explained Monnoyeur. “It is better to carry out complementary scans and x-rays, but I was not uncomfortable reaching the conclusions as regards the physical injuries.”
Because the expert was testifying about pictures that could be used to identity the individuals she examined, most of her questioning was conducted in closed session. Moreover, because judges allowed her reports to be admitted into evidence, she was questioned briefly – with her testimony centering on the methods she used and the conclusions she reached.
Earlier this week, two witnesses testified with protective measures including voice and face distortion in the brief moments of their testimony that was rebroadcast. Court officials said their court-give pseudonyms were withheld to guard against their identities being known to members of the public.
Hearings in the trial continue tomorrow morning with the evidence of a new prosecution witness.