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Ntaganda’s Lawyer Says Prosecution Exceeded Witness Preparation Protocol

Congolese war crimes accused Bosco Ntaganda’s lawyer has accused prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of exceeding the court’s witness preparation protocol while working with an individual who gave testimony this week against the former Congolese rebel leader.

Defense lawyer Christopher Gosnell made the accusation with regard to the prosecution’s handling of an individual going by the court-given name Witness P300, who took the witness stand yesterday morning and concluded his testimony this afternoon. Whereas the testimony of this witness has been heard in closed session in order to keep his identity secret from the public, there were brief moments when the hearing was heard in public. It was in one of these public sessions that the defense lawyer faulted the way the Office of the Prosecutor, also known as OTP, briefed Witness P300.

Witness P300 is the 56th witness to testify for the prosecution.

Before the witness appeared before judges, Ntaganda’s lawyers took issue with how the prosecution prepared him once he arrived at the court to testify. Gosnell claimed that prosecutors “violated” witness preparation protocol by “exceeding legitimate exercise of clarification” of Witness P300’s prior recorded statement. Gosnell said the witness was asked to “comment on factual events” that he did not observe. Accordingly, the defense lawyer asked judges to order the prosecution to disclose the video recording of the witness preparation. In addition, the defense asked judges to order that, in its questioning of the witness, the prosecution should not use items undisclosed to Ntaganda’s lawyers.

However, judges found that the manner in which the preparation session was conducted was “in line with permitted scope” and the questions asked by the prosecution “appeared to relate” to the statement of the witness. The judges stated that the witness preparation log disclosed to the defense was “elaborative” and provided a clear picture of what occurred during the preparation.

“The chamber notes that the prosecution intervened to focus the witness, and therefore the chamber finds disclosure of the video not warranted,” Presiding Judge Robert Fremr stated in an oral ruling. It remains unclear what the focus of Witness P300’s testimony was, as his testimony was almost exclusively given in sessions that were closed to the public.

Ntaganda is on trial for five counts of crimes against humanity: murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, and forcible transfer of the population. He is also charged with 13 counts of war crimes: murder and attempted murder; attacking civilians; rape; sexual slavery of civilians; pillaging; displacement of civilians; attacking protected objects; destroying the enemy’s property; and rape, sexual slavery, enlistment, and conscription of child soldiers under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.

The alleged crimes were committed during his tenure as the deputy chief of staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) headed by Thomas Lubanga. Ntaganda and the group’s fighters purportedly committed the atrocities in Congo’s Ituri province during ethnic conflict between 2002 and 2003.

Hearings in the trial are scheduled to continue tomorrow morning with the testimony of another prosecution witness going by the pseudonym Witness 883.