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Witness: Ntaganda’s Fighters Raped Me, Killed my Husband

On Tuesday, a Congolese woman, who was raped by Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militiamen and whose husband was killed by other militiamen, recounted her ordeal to International Criminal Court (ICC) judges trying Bosc0 Ntaganda.

Testifying under the pseudonym Witness V2, she testified how she was raped while fleeing from attacks by UPC fighters on the town of Mongbwalu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in late 2002. This witness is one of three victims of crimes alleged to have been committed by Ntaganda and his UPC militia who are testifying this week in trial of the former Congolese rebel commander in The Hague.

The witness stated that, after traveling 10 kilometers seeking refuge from fighting, she and her husband, along with other local residents, met a UPC roadblock. The militiamen ordered them to stop, then separated men from women. They proceeded to rape four of the women, including her.

Witness V2 said three militiamen dragged her to the bush and ordered her to hand her two-year-old baby to one of the fighters. “I tried to resist, and they hit me with a butt of a rifle in my mouth and I lost two teeth. Subsequent to that they raped me one after the other, and then they told me to leave,” she said.

She said she felt like her uterus was swollen, and she could not walk. A Good Samaritan later carried Witness V2’s child and helped her to walk on to the next town.

“At that point I had intense pain in the lower regions of my stomach and even today I have problems during my menstrual cycle,” the witness said, in response to a question from her lawyer Dmytro Suprun’s question about the effects of the attack.

Three days after reaching a town that was relatively safe, Witness V2 was informed that UPC fighters had killed her husband, along with an unknown number of other men who had been separated from the women at the roadblock. She said her husband’s body has never been found. The witness said the men were killed for declining to join the UPC.

According to her, the women who were raped and the men who were killed were from the Alur and Lugbara ethnic groups. The UPC, which prosecutors say was mostly made up of members of Hema origin, persecuted and killed people from other ethnic groups, particularly the Lendu.

In her testimony, Witness V2 also recounted the decapitation of a man by a young UPC soldier. “We found a [soldier] who had decapitated a man … They took that head and put it at the end of a knife. They were brandishing it, saying this is a Lendu,” testified the witness. She said the young soldier later set the severed head on fire.

The court’s rules allow for victims to testify or to present their views and concerns. In the Ntaganda trial, five victims have presented their views and concerns, while three others have been granted leave to give evidence. Yesterday, Witness V1 testified that UPC fighters tortured him and killed six members of his family, including his wife.

Witness V2 said after the war she remarried and “wanted to have other children, but it was not possible any longer due to the effects of the rape.” She completed her testimony this afternoon. A new witness will start giving evidence on Wednesday.