Bosco Ntaganda told International Criminal Court (ICC) judges on Wednesday that he prohibited sexual relations among members of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia and the policy was respected by all troops.
“At all assemblies of recruits, I told male recruits that nobody could sleep with a female recruit. It was forbidden,” said Ntaganda, who is testifying in his own defense.
The former top UPC commander stated that, in his addresses to recruits, he emphasized that since the reason they had joined the group was to protect civilians, no fighter was allowed to become pregnant or to have a sexual relationship with another fighter. This message was “repeated on several occasion and it was respected,” he said.
Asked by defense lawyer Stephane Bourgon how he knew that the policy was respected, Ntaganda replied: “No incidents related to pregnancy arose or was notified, so the instructions were followed to the letter.”
Bourgon then questioned Ntaganda about the UPC’s policy regarding rape. “That was also part of my instructions. No man or woman was authorized to sleep with a person of the opposite sex without their consent,” said Ntaganda. “This was not accepted at all.”
Ntaganda recounted two cases of attempted rape that were reported at the group’s training camp in Mandro. In one case, an officer known as Brandon who attempt to commit rape was “arrested and punished.” The second case of attempted rape involved one of Ntaganda’s female bodyguards. “I arrested him and flogged him in front of my troops,” Ntaganda said.
He stated that there were four female bodyguards in his personal escort and among the duties assigned to them was to support his wife in taking care of his home. Ntaganda stated that the four female bodyguards were armed and “happy to serve” because “they loved” him.
“Why did you select four female military personnel [PMFs] to be at your residence?” asked Bourgon.
“Selection [of bodyguards] was done by the chief of escort. He selected them from among his soldiers and assigned them,” Ntaganda replied.
He stated that the four PMFs were aged 18 years and above. Asked how he determined their age, Ntaganda replied that they had fulfilled the screening criteria enforced at the camp. This included visual assessment as well as completion of tasks, like carrying a gun and a box of ammunition.
“Is there a link between age and the ability to carry a box of ammunition?” Bourgon asked.
“Yes, a person who would carry a weapon and a box of ammunition could not be less than 18,” replied Ntaganda.
Ntaganda said the female recruits’ sleeping quarters were located 100 meters away from those occupied by their male counterparts. He added that they were assigned officers and a nurse “responsible for protecting” them.
Ntaganda said he could not remember the number of female personnel in UPC, but “they were few.” Besides serving in the personal escort of commanders and other duties as assigned, some served as instructors at the Mandro training camp.
Ntaganda’s testimony today contradicts the evidence presented by the prosecution. Last year, a former insider in the UPC testified that the militia’s commanders raped female recruits. Another former insider testified that PMFs were not in a position to turn down sexual advances from their UPC superiors.
Prosecutors at the ICC accuse Ntaganda of numerous crimes, including rape, sexual slavery, enlistment and conscription of child soldiers under the age of 15 years and using them in hostilities. He is also charged over attacking civilians, pillaging, murder, and displacement of civilians. He denies the crimes, which were allegedly committed during 2002 and 2003, claiming he only fought for peace and the return of displaced civilians to their homes.
This was Ntaganda’s fifth day on the witness stand. He continues his testimony Thursday morning.