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Female UPC Soldiers ‘Were Not in Position to Turn Down Sexual Advances From Commanders’

Sexual relations between commanders and female recruits in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia may not always have been consensual, according to testimony heard today at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the war crimes trial of Bosco Ntaganda.

An individual, who appears to have been an insider in the group in which the accused was a top commander, recounted the situation, stating that it was it was “difficult” for the girls to decline the commanders’ advances.

“At that time, I was not in a position to know what those young girls were really thinking, but I believe that if a commander wants your favors it is difficult to turn them down. Those girls were not in a position to do so,” said the individual who testified under the pseudonym Witness P868.

The witness was responding to Presiding Judge Robert Fremr‘s question as to whether the witness observed any dissatisfaction or resistance by female soldiers to sexual relations with their commanders. The witness gave details of those relationships in closed session.

Judge Fremr’s question came at the conclusion of Witness P868’s three-day testimony, most of which was heard in closed session. This witness is the 50th individual called by the prosecution to testify against the former deputy chief of staff of the UPC, who has been on trial since September 2015 for various war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003.

Witness P868 started testifying at the ICC on Tuesday, November 8. He is the second witness to take the stand since hearings in Ntaganda’s trial resumed on November 7, after a brief hiatus. Before him, judge’s heard the testimony of Witness P976, most of it in closed session.

This afternoon, another witness started testifying – also in closed session – via video link from an undisclosed location. She is scheduled to continue her testimony tomorrow afternoon.