Testimony that a former insider in a Congolese militia group previously gave at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was admitted into evidence on Thursday, November 24, in the trial of ex-rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda. The prosecution tendered the witness statement and five related documents after the former insider, who is known under the pseudonym Witness P012, appeared in court and confirmed their truthfulness and accuracy.
In its application to admit Witness P012’s recorded statement, the prosecution stated that this individual was an eyewitness to an attack by the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) rebels on the town of Bunia in August 2002. It added that his testimony also touched on the structure and policies of the UPC, Ntaganda’s role in the group, preparations and attacks on the towns of Songolo in August 2002 and Tchomia in October 2003, and the use of child soldiers. Regarding the attack on Bunia, the witness reportedly “saw a large number of dead bodies including those of women and children.”
This morning, the prosecution conducted brief supplementary questioning of Witness P012 to elicit information on the role Ntaganda played in the UPC and the group’s treatment of people of Hema ethnicity. According to the prosecution, the issues on which it conducted supplementary questioning were “only briefly” addressed in the witness statement and yet these topics are important for the case against the accused. All of the supplementary questioning of the witness, as well as the defense’s cross-examination, was conducted in closed session.
Pursuant to Rule 68(3) of the court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, judges may allow the introduction of the prior recorded testimony of a witness who is present before the chamber if the individual does not object and if both parties and the chamber have an opportunity to examine the witness.
Last July, the prosecution moved to make its case shorter, with prosecutor Fatou Bensouda proposing that, besides examining its more than 80 witnesses for fewer hours than earlier planned, the prosecution would ask judges to admit the prior testimony of some witnesses, rather than ask them to testify before the court. The move came after judges directed the prosecution to significantly reduce the number of its witnesses so as to expedite the trial.
Ntaganda, the former deputy chief of staff of the UPC, is on trial for crimes allegedly committed by himself and his soldiers during 2002 and 2003 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri district, mostly against the non-Hema civilian population.
Witness P012 is the 55th individual called by prosecutors in the Ntaganda trial. On November 23, a protected witness, whose pseudonym remains unknown, concluded testifying. All of the evidence by this witness was heard in closed session.
The cross-examination of Witness P012 continued through the end of the week.