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Defense Questions UPC Insider About Atrocities Committed by Rival Militia

Lawyers representing war crimes accused Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have concluded questioning a former insider in the militia group where the accused was a senior commander. The cross-examination of the witness focused on video excerpts recorded in the town of Bunia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which implicate a rival militia in murder and pillaging.

The excerpts, which were played to the witness today, were dated May 13, 2013, and showed footage of various locations in Muzipela, a neighborhood that had just fallen under the control of Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) troops.

In the video, an unnamed narrator stated that combatants belonging to the Lendu ethnic group had pillaged shops in the local market and massacred civilians five days before Ntaganda’s UPC troops arrived. Ntaganda is on trial over crimes committed by himself and his UPC fighters that were predominantly of Hema ethnicity, who prosecutors say targeted rival ethnic communities, notably the Lendu.

In an interview, a UPC commander identified in the video as Eric [Mbabazi] described the destruction around him as “regrettable.”

“When we took the city, things like this did not happen. When we were battling the Uganda People’s Defense Forces and ascertained that people would die, we pulled back. Another force entered [the city], and it has caused this tremendous chaos,” Commander Mbabazi said in the video.

“The situation we see in the video is something you saw with your own eyes, right?” defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon asked the insider, testifying under the pseudonym Witness P030.

“Yes,” replied the witness, who confirmed that he knew the unnamed narrator in the video. In addition to testifying under a pseudonym, Witness P030 had his voice and image distorted during public broadcasts of his testimony.

The video also showed a seminary with a damaged vehicle in the courtyard and papers thrown around the main building. An unnamed individual in the video attributed the damage to Lendu combatants, stating that they looted “everything” including computers.

“Even the priest’s vestments are thrown on the ground. This is the home of the priest, [the] place where children studied. It is shocking and heartbreaking,” said the unidentified individual. He pointed at an unmarked grave where he said they buried a primary school inspector killed during an attack on the seminary.

Meanwhile, the video footage also showed 13 corpses lying on the floor of a house allegedly hit by a rocket shell. Local residents who witnessed the attack told the camera crew that the deceased were four women, five men, and four children. One eye witness stated that there were no survivors in the attack on the house and described the massacred children as “one little girl and three boys.”

Most of the defense’s questioning of Witness P030 related to the video excerpts was conducted in closed session. When he first took the witness stand last Friday, the witness recounted the presence of child soldiers among UPC ranks, including in Ntaganda’s personal escort. It remains unknown under what capacity the witness served in the militia group, but he appears to have worked closely with the accused and the group’s former leader, Thomas Lubanga.

Hearings continue tomorrow morning with the testimony of a new prosecution witness who goes by the pseudonym Witness P365.