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Voices from Ituri: A Discussion on Reparations Proceedings in the Ntaganda Case

The below transcript is from a program on Radio Canal Révélation, a radio station based in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which aired on February 14, 2020. The program is called “At the Crossroads of Justice,” which promotes discussion on critical issues around justice in DRC.

The main presenter is Richard Pituwa, and the show featured two guests speaking about reparations in the Bosco Ntaganda case. Sabine Muzama is a lawyer from Haut Katanga, formerly Lubumbashi, but also from Tshopo and Ituri. She is an expert and coordinator of the Association of Women Lawyers. Xavier Macky Kisembo is a Magistrate and Director of the NGO Justice Plus.

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Richard Pituwa: Dear Radio Canal Révélation listeners, welcome to the first edition of this program, At the Crossroads of Justice. The ICC [International Criminal Court] Registry must identify potential new beneficiaries for reparations in the Bosco Ntaganda case.

Ntaganda is officially recognized as a former general of the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] Armed Forces. Prior to that, he worked here in Ituri as a military commander in the armed group UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots). He is charged with 18 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

According to the ICC judges, this new decision will facilitate the fair and expeditious conduct of the reparations proceedings. The ICC, furthermore, decided that there should be a new mapping of victims and assess how many of the victims who were already participating in the trial are eligible to actually receive reparations for the crimes committed by Bosco Ntaganda. These crimes were committed in the town of Bunia, in the territories of Djugu, Mahagi, and even Aru.

To talk about this, in this studio we have the magistrate Xavier Macky Kisembo. He is the director of NGO Justice Plus, and we invited him to the studio as a legal expert. Hello, Mr. Xavier Macky!

Xavier Macky: Hello, Richard.

Richard: We also have in the studio Mrs. Sabine Muzama. Mrs. Sabine, hello!

Mrs. Sabine: Good morning, Mr. Journalist.

Richard: Dear listeners, to participate in this program, send us your questions by message to the number 0822070800. We’ll be together for 30 minutes. At the microphone is Richard Pituwa, I am assisted by David Ramazani and Jonas Mugadhu is directing. Pending questions from the listeners, the first question for Xavier Macky.

Question: You follow closely what happens in relation to the reparation process but also to the convictions. Why do you think the decision was made to re-map the victims when there was already mapping? Is it fair to say that the work was not done properly before or what?

Xavier Macky: Thank you, Richard, for the issue you just raised. Actually, as you will see, the court felt that it was necessary to make a new mapping and asked the Registry to work on this matter in order to be able to review the number of victims.

When I talk about revising of the number of victims, it is because, already at this stage, the Court has identified or accepted at least 2,132 victims to the proceedings, on the basis of a number of criteria that have been defined. So, the work of victim identification, as in all the other cases, particularly that of Thomas Lubanga, continues. And if you remember correctly, in the Lubanga case, there were 425 victims who were admitted to the reparation procedure.

The judge considered that there are potential victims in the community and therefore it is important that a new mapping be done to be able to bring all the victims to participate in the reparation process so that they do not remain in a situation of desolation.

Richard: Mrs. Sabine, do you have anything to add?

Mrs. Sabine: Actually, agreeing with what Mr. Xavier has just said, one thing to be added is that, as you know, in any legal proceedings the objective is not just the punishment of the perpetrators of crimes but more [sic] the resocialization of and reparation for damages suffered by the victims.

The fact that the ICC is asking for the mapping to be redone should not pose a problem because by redoing the mapping, we are not saying that the 2,132 victims who have been accepted to participate in the trial will be excluded, only that we want to establish concrete and precise reparations that will reach the real victims of these abuses.

Richard: Thank you. But Madam, isn’t this likely to give these victims a little too much hope for reparations, when Bosco has filed an appeal and you never know if he’s going to be acquitted?

Mrs. Sabine: I don’t think so. Because Mr. Bosco’s appeal is more about the criminal conviction, whereas the reparation was made by order. So we don’t think it can be frustrated.

Richard: Macky, do you have anything to add?

Xavier Macky: Yes. If I may also affirm the answers just given by Mrs. Sabine, I don’t think this will be a problem because Mr. Bosco Ntaganda’s appeal is much more about the sentence. The defense felt that the sentence that was handed down by the judge was quite excessive, so it was necessary to rule again on this sentence and see how the judge could reduce it. It is another fight at this stage that only concerns the sentence and not the reparation proceedings.*

You will agree with me that there are still more hearings on reparations, and the judge in his ruling talked about hearings scheduled between February and October. So, they are two different things and the appeal cannot and will never frustrate the victims who are waiting for reparations, even if the appeal judge can review the sentence. We’re not saying he’ll necessarily be able to review. And if he manages to revise the sentence to 15 years, 20 years, and even if he were to maintain the sentence, that has nothing to do with touching or watering down the reparation proceedings as provided for by the judge.

Richard: There is a question here, which was asked by an auditor from Bambu Mines [a Lendu locality, headquarters of the Société des Mines d’Or de Kilo-Moto, SOKIMO] during one of the missions we carried out on the area.

Question: On what principle does the ICC manage to identify real victims and affected entities? For it seems that certain places are often forgotten.

Xavier Macky: Before reaching the confirmation of charges phase, there is always substantive work that is done by the Office of the Prosecutor in the field, together with other persons associated with the investigation, to carry out field missions and hear the victims.

I think that at this stage, you can’t say that a job is done without being able to do some preliminary missions.

Richard: I remind listeners to use the number 0822070800 for your questions, you can send them by message and you can also call if possible.

Mrs. Sabine, a question we have from Kobu: “Some of the victims of the abuses committed by Bosco in the Lendu villages in Djugu territory, particularly in Kobu, Bambu, etc., have already died without any reparations. So, what would justify the delay in the reparation process?”

Mrs. Sabine: Thank you again for that question. Right away, I would like to put people’s minds at ease because the reparations practically involve civil matters. Even if the victim is dead, their family is there. So their family can continue to claim compensation for the harm suffered by the deceased. It is not like in criminal matters, where the charges are dismissed when the person is dead. In civil matters, as is the case with reparations, we will have to see it through at all costs.

People should be aware that, even when the victim is dead, they can come and be identified on behalf of the victim and reparations will be made. 

But in relation to the delay as mentioned by the listener, I would say that there is no delay, but rather these are very complex cases for which, as Magistrate Macky said, major investigations and a lot of work are required.

So we have to proceed with identification and the file should be studied in the chamber to see who or what to prosecute. And then the reparations will come. The population must therefore be as patient as possible, given the complexity of trials related to the crimes under the Rome Statute.

Richard: Thank you for this explanation, Mrs. Sabine. And if Macky doesn’t have anything to add, you’re going to answer the following question, asked by a listener.

Question: If Bosco is convicted, it is not bad, but why doesn’t the ICC see who pushed Bosco to commit all these crimes?

Richard: This question is one that should be answered by the ICC, but perhaps you could provide a small part of the answer as an expert.

Xavier Macky: I think those who followed the trial, and if you even read the judgment as it was handed down by the judge, I don’t think there are people who were cited by Bosco as the masterminds. And so here it is the act blamed on Bosco that is being punished. But beyond that, I must say that the ICC does not have to do everything. It is a complementary institution, with complementary jurisdiction. The Congolese courts also have jurisdiction to prosecute others who have committed such crimes with Bosco Ntaganda.

I should say at this point that there are people who pushed Bosco to commit crimes. Bosco is responsible for the crimes he committed as stated in the sentencing decision.

Richard: Another question that may be related to the previous one: Why can’t the ICC visit some of the villages affected by Bosco’s atrocities in order to discover other realities?

Xavier Macky: I don’t think that the ICC or the Office of the Prosecutor when visiting are making any publications or radio messages to say we’re here, we’ve come to investigate. The investigation is carried out secretly and with the persons concerned by the investigation, as with ordinary proceedings. Even under Congolese law, when a magistrate has to carry out a site visit, he does not have to advertise it. This is to avoid, of course, having evidence destroyed, to really work independently and in an environment that allows the work to be done in very good conditions.

I can reassure the listener that the missions were carried out in all the localities or villages that were targeted by Mr. Bosco Ntanganda’s crimes.

Richard: Mrs. Sabine, do you have anything to add?

Mrs. Sabine: Yes. I agree with Mr. Macky. People should also be aware that the ICC Registry is organized in different sections that interact with each other, which are in charge of ICC outreach. The aim is to bring ICC representatives closer to the communities that have been victims of abuses. This means that in Ituri you will also find an office. The role of this office is also to get closer to the community that was hit by the crimes. So, they’re doing their job, but as the Magistrate just said, investigations are secret. They do this by having representatives meet with communities through their leaders.

Richard: Mr. Xavier Macky, there is a question from Professor Lonjiringa from Simbilyabo. In his phone call he asks, “Why does the ICC always wait until the end of crimes against humanity or genocide to arrest the criminals, including the one [sic] in Djugu?”

Xavier Macky: As I said before, we should not put everything on the ICC’s shoulders. I believe that you have all been following how the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office recently published a report of a very preventive character in relation to all those who commit crimes in the territory of Djugu. This is to say that the work is being done one way or another. And the phase of in-depth investigations by judicial institutions may come.

And so we should not say that nothing has been done or nothing is being done. Even if there are things for which this report can be criticized, it is already a step towards being able to identify the criminals but also to be able to establish responsibility for what is happening in Djugu.

And so we hope that, if not the ICC, even national jurisdictions will be able to take up the case and make thorough and independent investigations to establish accountability for what is happening. For us, it’s really a strong signal.

Richard: Mrs. Sabine, does the ICC always wait for the genocide to take place before intervening?

Mrs. Sabine: Mr. Richard, what does one think of initially when we talk about the ICC? The ICC is a permanent court with a mission and therefore this court has its objectives; it is to investigate and prosecute crimes and abuses of an international character and as a complementary jurisdiction, the ICC acts only when the national jurisdiction does not act or is unable to act. And therefore, it must be a crime for the ICC to intervene because it cannot interfere with the internal sovereignty of a country and therefore it can only intervene when crimes have already been committed.

Richard: This listener asks, why does the ICC deceive victims in this way?

Perhaps this question could be reserved for the Trust Fund for Victims. We’ll come back to that soon.

Another question. “Hello, the genocidaires are still in Djugu, but Bosco was just there to protect the innocent people. I wonder if we can take the witnesses who have been through this misery?”

Mr. Xavier: You have the Office of the Prosecutor that has taken evidence from victims, but you also have the defense, which in turn has the ability to bring the witnesses to testify on its behalf. This question should be addressed perhaps later to Bosco Ntaganda’s defense because I know that in a trial like this there is equality of arms. The Prosecutor’s office with the victims, the defense and all parties involved in this trial have enough time to prepare the case and sharpen their weapons. So if that hasn’t been done by Bosco Ntaganda’s defense, I think that’s where he’s having problems.

Richard: Mrs. Sabine, do you have a word to say about this question from the listener who thinks there are genocidaires in Djugu, but Bosco was just protecting innocent people?

Mrs. Sabine: We think Bosco already had witnesses and even prepared his defense well together with his lawyers. However, we are also asking people who think they have evidence in their possession that could help Bosco, to bring it because the court was not unfair.

Richard: We have a question from a listener who asks this: Since the government already seems to be overwhelmed by the Djugu case, isn’t there a way the ICC can intervene?

Xavier Macky: For this question, it must be said that there is already a serious problem because the institutions (the army, police) are not currently managing to protect the population properly. That is why we talk like this to the population. The report makes it clear that what is happening in Djugu could be qualified as a crime of genocide. I stress the word “could.” So if it has been said in this way, I think that this report leaves an opening to say that there must be independent investigations by independent courts in order to establish responsibility and to crystallize what is happening in Djugu.

The report makes recommendations, in particular to the FARDC (DRC Armed Forces), PNC (Congolese National Police), which as far as possible try to protect the population.

These recommendations have been taken into account by the Congolese government to see to what extent it must strengthen the security of the population and their property to stop this massacre.

Richard: Mrs. Sabine, do you have a final word on everything that was discussed during this program?

Mrs. Sabine: In conclusion I will say this, if the ICC has to intervene, it will intervene as a court of law and will come to investigate and prosecute the so-called genocidaires. But it is the responsibility of the Congolese government to keep the people safe.

Richard: Well, I remind you that Mrs. Sabine Muzama is an expert and coordinator for the Association of Women Lawyers. She is also a lawyer from Haut Katanga, formerly Lubumbashi, but also from Tshopo and Ituri.

Mr. Xavier Macky, final words regarding the reparations for victims of Bosco Ntaganda?

Mr. Xavier: With regard to the reparation proceedings, we are not yet at this stage because there are potential victims to be identified and therefore substantive work must be done to determine the final number of victims who will later be considered in the reparation award as provided for by the Court.

And in relation to what is happening in Djugu, it must be said that we have to trust our army and police working well together. It’s important that we all contribute, since security is everyone’s business. However, the Congolese government must take into consideration all the recommendations made to it by the report of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, so that Djugu is an unarmed territory and Ituri is an ideal province where everyone will want to live.

Richard: Thank you very much Mr. Xavier Macky, I remind listeners that he is director of Justice Plus, an NGO for the defense and promotion of human rights.

Thank you all, kind listeners, for tuning in. Here we had Richard Pituwa, assisted by David Ramazani and Jonas Mugadhu and on the air Daniel Balinda.

 End of program

 *Bosco Ntaganda’s lawyers have appealed both his criminal conviction and his sentence. The ICC has scheduled an appeals hearing to start on June 29, 2020.

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