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Ntaganda to Call Fewer Witnesses Than Initially Anticipated

Bosco Ntaganda’s lawyers intend to reduce the number of witnesses they will call to testify for the former Congolese rebel commander at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“We need to take full stock of Ntaganda’s testimony before we confirm to the chamber and come forward with a list of new witnesses,” lead defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon said on Friday afternoon. The defense said it would provide the details of the witnesses to be dropped off its list, but that it was “likely they could be more than 11”.

Prior to the opening of the defense case last May, Bourgon indicated that they intended to call more than 100 witnesses to testify for Ntaganda, who is on trial at the ICC over crimes he and Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) troops allegedly committed during the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri district.

Ntaganda has been testifying in his own defense since June as the second witness called by his lawyers. His testimony was initially expected to last up to six weeks.  However, over the course of his testimony, judges granted the defense and the prosecution additional time to question him. On July 3, judges granted the defense and the prosecution an additional 15 hours to question Ntaganda. The prosecution’s cross-examination of Ntaganda was to last the same amount of time as the defense’s questioning.

On Thursday, prosecutors concluded their questioning of Ntaganda after being granted additional cross-examination time of one hour. Furthermore, the defense was granted eight hours for redirect examination, which began on Monday.

Friday, victims’ lawyer Sara Pellet questioned Ntaganda, focusing on the availability of supplies and provisions for UPC troops as well as the recruitment criteria enforced by the militia, which Ntaganda had testified about earlier.

In submissions seeking more time to question Ntaganda, the defense has argued that the accused’s testimony would result in a shorter defense case. “This case will not be longer if Ntaganda testifies more. The case will be shorter,” stated Bourgon last July.

In a May 2017 interview, Bourgon stated that Ntaganda had decided to take the witness stand in order to clear his name and show that “he’s not the person portrayed in the media and elsewhere” and explain “who he is, what he did, and why he did what he did.”