International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Defense Lawyer Challenges Victim’s Account of Crimes Implicating Ntaganda

Defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon has dismissed the evidence of a witness called by legal representatives of victims and accused him of making up stories against Congolese ex-militia leader Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The lawyer’s assertions were made on Wednesday, in response to Witness V3’s testimony alleging that at the end of 2002, Ntaganda and his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) superior Floribert Kisembo visited his father’s home on three occasions to discuss alliance with the militia group. Upon refusal, Ntaganda purportedly led a group of soldiers who arrested and killed the witness’s father.

“On [the] basis of testimony heard and on the basis of information we obtained during our investigations, in addition to information coming from chief of the [area] where the [alleged] meetings took place, I put it to you that you invented these meetings,” Bourgon said.  He suggested that Ntaganda and Kisembo did not attend the meetings with the father of the witness.

The witness responded, “That’s a complete lie,” adding that individuals whose information the defense lawyer relied on were not in the village at the time.

According to the testimony of this witness, Ntaganda visited his father’s home in the Congolese mining town of Kilo three times during December 2002. On all visits, he asked his father, a respected village elder and gold dealer, to support the UPC’s political program, offer financing to the militia, and disclose the areas where Lendu combatants were hiding. At the time, the UPC was fighting against the Lendu militia for control of several towns in Ituri district in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The witness, who said he attended all the meetings, stated that his father rejected all pleas to support the UPC. Subsequently, he said, soldiers led by Ntaganda arrested his father and later killed him.

Also in his testimony, Witness V3 mentioned that the UPC had a list of senior leaders in the towns around Kilo. Asked by the defense lawyer whether the alleged list was discussed by his father, Kisembo, and Ntaganda during the meetings at his father’s home, he replied in the negative. He added that he came to know about the list because UPC soldiers used to talk about it.

Bourgon challenged the witness’s claim that such list had been in existence and said he, the witness, had made it up.

“At that age I was not in position to invent that thing,” Witness V3 responded, referring to the list. “That type of information is politics. I was in the fifth year of secondary school.”

Subsequently, the defense lawyer questioned the witness about contradictions between information on the application he completed to participate in the trial as a victim and his testimony in court. This questioning was done in sessions closed to the public in order to protect the identity of the witness.

Witness V3 is the third and last witness called by victims’ lawyers to testify this week. Last month, five victims presented their views and concerns to judges trying Ntaganda.

Ntaganda has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity. His trial at the ICC started in September 2015. The defense is expected to start presenting its case in the coming weeks.

 

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