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More Evidence in Ntaganda Trial Heard in Closed Session

Hearings in Bosco Ntaganda’s International Criminal Court (ICC) trial have for the second half of this week been conducted in closed session. Witness P857 and Witness P116 have testified in proceedings closed to the public since Wednesday.

Witness P116 appeared before Trial Chamber VI via video link. In an oral ruling last Friday, Presiding Judge Robert Fremr said judges had granted a prosecution request to hear the evidence of the witness remotely because of an undisclosed medical condition. According to Judge Fremr, judges considered that Witness P116’s testimony had previously been rescheduled due to ill health, hence they granted leave for his remote appearance.

Article 69 of the Rome Statute permits the giving of evidence by means of video or audio technology provided it is not prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused. Rule 67 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence requires that such technology permits the witness to be examined by all parties in the trial at the time of appearance. This rule requires that the venue chosen for video link testimony is “conducive to the giving of truthful and open testimony and to the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of the witness.”

The appearance of Witness P116 via video link brings the number of prosecution witnesses who have testified from undisclosed locations this year to four. In January, judges granted prosecution requests to hear the testimony of three witnesses said to be suffering from “serious health conditions” that prevented them from travelling to The Hague to testify.

Witness P005 was said to be recovering from an undisclosed medical condition. Moreover, according to the court’s Victims and Witnesses Section (VWS), he had limited mobility and had been advised by a doctor to avoid exhausting activities. Meanwhile, Witness P108 was said to be of advanced age, had previously suffered undisclosed injuries, and was undergoing treatment for an ailment not made public. Witness P773 also appeared via video link on January 18 on grounds not made public.

Like Witness P116 and Witness P857, the evidence of witnesses P005, P108, and P773 was also heard in closed session. The defense has consistently argued that persistent use of closed sessions denies Ntaganda a public trial and can encourage witnesses to tell lies because they know that members of the public cannot know their identities or hear their testimonies.

Witness P116 is the 70th witness called by prosecutors to testify against Ntaganda, who is on trial over crimes allegedly committed by himself and his militia members during 2002 and 2003.

Hearings continue on February 16 with the testimony of a new prosecution witness.