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Ntaganda Trial: Video Link Testimony of Witness P005 Heard in Closed Session

The evidence of the latest prosecution witness in Bosco Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has so far been heard in closed session. The individual, who goes by the pseudonym Witness P005, took the witness stand yesterday afternoon via video link from an undisclosed location.

On January 3, 2017, judges granted a prosecution request to hear the testimony of Witness P005 remotely because he was unable to the travel to The Hague. The witness was said to be recovering from an undisclosed medical condition. Moreover, according to the court’s Victims and Witnesses Section, he had limited mobility and had been advised by a doctor to avoid exhausting activities.

Defense lawyers opposed the appearance of Witness P005 by way of video link. They argued that the prosecution’s request to hear the witness’s testimony remotely was “inappropriate” given the importance of his anticipated testimony. According to the defense, the witness may have “motives to lie” that would be more easily detected and countered if the witness were present in the courtroom. The defense also submitted that a medical opinion should be provided in order to assess whether the conditions for video link testimony are satisfied.

Judges dismissed the defense’s submissions, stating that they did not consider that the use of video link required exceptional justification. They added that they had not “previously found it necessary to obtain further information concerning a witness’s inability to travel.”

The judges determined that even via video link, parties would have the opportunity to examine the witness in real time, and as such no prejudice would arise if he did not physically appear in The Hague. Witness P005 was also granted protective measures, including the use of a pseudonym, as well as distortions to his voice and face during any public broadcasts of his testimony.

Ntaganda, the former deputy chief of staff of the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriot (UPC), is on trial at the ICC for 18 counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. The alleged crimes were committed between 2002 and 2003 in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Witness P005 continues testifying in the trial on Monday, January 30.