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Five Victims Present Views to Judges in Ntaganda Trial

This week, five victims of crimes allegedly committed by Bosco Ntaganda and his militia presented their views and concerns to judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Appearing before judges via video link, the victims’ presentations were limited to discussing the harm they suffered.

Those who testified this week, namely Victims a/01635/13, a/30169/15, a/30286/15,  a/20018/14, and a/20126/14, are among the nine that judges have authorized  to present views and concerns or evidence in the trial. Victims a/30012/15, a/30365/15, and a/00256/13 shall give evidence between April 10 and April 13, 2017. Victim a/00256/13 is expected to testify via video link while the other two will appear at the seat of the court in The Hague.

Victim a/01243/13, who was also scheduled to present views this week to judges, did not show up. Dmytro Suprun, one of the lawyers representing victims, did mention the reason for the absence in court.

Lawyers representing victims had requested that eight victims present evidence while four present their views and concerns. However, judges declined to hear the testimony of three of the individuals proposed. Regarding Victim CLR2-1, judges stated that whereas his proposed testimony was of “potential relevance” to the charges against Ntaganda, it was inappropriate to hear it because the prosecution had called “several witnesses” who testified in relation to the same issues. On the same grounds, judges declined to hear the testimony of Victim a/00045/13 and Victim a/30287/15.

As per Article 68(3) of the court’s Rome Statute, where personal interests of victims are affected, the court permits their views and concerns to be presented and considered at stages of the proceedings determined by judges. The practice at the ICC has been for victims to make their presentations, or to give evidence, just after the close of the prosecution case.

In her testimony, Victim a/20018/14 said she was raped by two Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) soldiers in the presence of her children aged 10, eight, and six years. Similarly, Victim a/30286/15 narrated that she was raped by three UPC soldiers when she was 13 years old.

Victim a/20126/14 testified how UPC soldiers attacked his village of Nyangara, destroyed several houses, murdered his relatives, and stabbed him with a bayonet. “My brother was killed. He was hacked to death with machetes,” said the victim, the only one to address judges without the use of any protective measures. Soldiers also shot his uncle dead and killed three other close relatives, he said. “That day all houses around Nyangara were torched. About five villages were burnt to the ground,” he added.

All the victims stated that if Ntaganda is found guilty, they would like reparations. Specifically, a/30286/15 said she would like a house to be built for her as reparation. She would also like assistance in educating her children.

Whereas Ntaganda’s lawyers did not oppose the presentation of views and evidence by victims, they suggested that any victim that appeared before judges should only talk about the harm suffered by them and their relatives. If judges allowed questions to go beyond this scope, full disclosure should be effected of all material related to these victims, the victims should take an oath and be subjected to cross-examination, they added.

Judges concurred with the defense in determining the focus and limits of the victims’ presentations. Accordingly, the victims who appeared this week were only questioned by their lawyer and by judges.

Ntaganda, the former deputy chief of staff of the UPC, is charged with murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, and using child soldiers, among other crimes. The alleged crimes were committed against the non-Hema civilian population of Congo’s Ituri province during ethnic conflict in 2002–2003. Ntaganda has pleaded not guilty.