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Ntaganda Appeals Hearing Scheduled for June 2020

The Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has scheduled a hearing on the appeals by Bosco Ntaganda against his conviction and sentence. The hearing will take place June 29 to July 1, 2020 at the seat of the court in The Hague. In addition to the defense appeal, judges will hear prosecution arguments appealing parts of the Ntaganda judgment that exonerated him of some of the criminal acts alleged by the prosecutor.

According to an order by Judge Howard Morrison, who is presiding over the appeals, the chamber will in due course issue instructions on the conduct of the hearing. These instructions would include the topics that the parties to the trial should address during the hearing and whether they intend to submit additional evidence on appeal, including calling witnesses.

In her appeal, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda contends that Trial Chamber VI judges erred in their findings regarding two incidents where they acquitted Ntaganda for intentionally directing attacks against a church at Sayo and the hospital at Mongbwalu.

According to the prosecutor, while these incidents may seem relatively minor given the gravity and variety of conduct that Ntaganda was found guilty, they illustrate important matters of legal principle. As such, the prosecutor submits that confirming and clarifying the law on these points “will not only be of general importance for the practice of this Court, but will contribute to the better protection of the victims of armed conflict around the world.”

Meanwhile, Ntaganda has appealed both the conviction and the sentence. In one appeal, he has asked appeals judges to overturn the conviction and acquit him. In another, he has asked that his prison sentence be reduced from 30 years to not more than 23 years.

Defense lawyers argue that, in determining the sentence, trial judges repeatedly failed to consider Ntaganda’s degree of concrete participation in certain crimes. Instead, they argue, the trial judges often repeated the basis of Ntaganda’s liability without further considering his degree of participation in the different crimes. Article 81(2)(a) of the court’s statute provides that a sentencing decision can be appealed on the ground of disproportion between the crime and the sentence.

Trial Chamber VI found Ntaganda responsible  for crimes committed in eastern Congo’s Ituri province during 2002 and 2003, while he served as deputy chief of staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) militia, the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC). Prosecution evidence showed that the UPC mostly targeted members of the Lendu ethnic group and that its members were mostly from the Hema group.

The defense argues in their appeal that judges were wrong to find that Ntaganda bore responsibility for the crimes committed by FPLC/UPC soldiers and Hema civilians. The defense has also claimed that charges against him were not sufficiently specific, which resulted in his improper conviction for 15 criminal acts. The defense states that the trial chamber convicted Ntaganda of at least 15 criminal acts that were not within the scope of the charges confirmed against him and which the facts and circumstances were not adequately pleaded.

The defense also argues that one of the judges on the trial chamber that convicted Ntaganda lacked judicial impartiality, and, as a result, the conviction decision was null and void.

The Appeals Chamber is composed of judges Howard Morrison, Chile Eboe-Osuji, Piotr Hofmański, Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza, and Solomy Balungi Bossa.