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New Prosecution Witness in Ntaganda Trial Testifies in Closed Session

The evidence of the latest witness called by prosecutors to testify against former Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has so far been heard in closed session.

The prosecution’s questioning of the individual, who goes by the pseudonym Witness P365, lasted nearly three hours while the defense started its cross-examination this afternoon.

At the start of proceedings this morning, judges declined a defense request to postpone the cross-examination of Witness P365 until tomorrow morning. In oral submissions to the judges, lead defense counsel Stéphane Bourgon said he needed more time to prepare his cross-examination because of recently disclosed material.

According to Bourgon, preparation notes for the testimony of the witness, which were disclosed on Monday, October 3, by the prosecution, included seven pages of “clarifications and corrections” by the witness to her earlier recorded statement. Furthermore, he said, despite prosecutors contacting the witness on three separate occasions in 2006, 2013, and 2014, she was not included on the prosecution’s list of witnesses until early 2015.

“The topics covered in the preparation note are the same as those in the statement. However, it goes further and requires us to do further work to prepare cross-examination,” stated Bourgon. He added that during preparation, the witness was asked questions using an unnamed document “that had not been used with her before.”

Bourgon also stated that recent witness scheduling changes following the unavailability of Witness P668 to testify last week meant that the defense’s preparation time was cut down. The prosecution has not stated in public why this witness did not show up to testify when he was expected.

Prosecutors opposed the defense request, arguing that “there was no good cause for delay” to cross-examine Witness P365 because their disclosure of the preparation notes for the witness was in accordance with court protocol, namely 24 hours before the witness appears. Regarding the questions put to the witness related to the unnamed document, the prosecution submitted that they were only for clarification purposes.

In rejecting the defense’s request, judges stated that they would observe the direct examination and “reconsider their decision” if need be. Presiding Judge Robert Fremr added that the decision was “not influenced” by ongoing scheduling challenges.

The defense continues its cross-examination of Witness P365 tomorrow morning.