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Ntaganda Tells ICC Judges, “I Wonder How I Was Convicted?”

Yesterday, Bosco Ntaganda addressed the Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC), appealing against his conviction and 30-year prison sentence. In July 2019, Ntaganda was convicted for 18-counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed during 2002 and 2003 while he served as a senior commander of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC)/Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). Below is a transcript of his address:

“Mr. President, Judges of the Appeals Chamber, I am very happy to be afforded the floor to speak before you today. I have waited for this moment for a long time … since the judges decided to convict me on all the charges against me. At the time that I was standing up to listen to the judges convict me, this was one of the most painful moments of my life. That is, when I heard the presiding judge of the trial chamber speak, I thought he was handing down a double conviction. This conviction concerns all the charges brought against me even though my defense team made their submissions and arguments throughout the trial, but those arguments were not taken into consideration.

At that point, I was tempted to give up but decided against it. My defense team and myself decided to continue working relentlessly and the outcome is that all the documents and materials that we have filed or tendered in this case have been corroborated during this hearing. So I would like to thank you very much for the time that you have allocated to me particularly during this time of crisis that is affecting the entire world. I would like to express my gratitude to the presiding judge and all authorities of the ICC for making it possible for my spouse and my son to participate in this hearing. I would also like to thank my family and all my children for continuing to support me and believe in me even when I am not with them at home.

At the commencement of this trial I said loud and clear that I am a revolutionary, someone who pursues change. Your honors, I am not a criminal. I have always believed that I am a revolutionary in my heart and in my mind. I have never been a criminal.

In the course of my career as a soldier when I was still a new recruit and when I was a platoon commander during the Rwanda genocide, and even while I was a trainer in the various groups, as well as a leader within the UPC/FPLC, right up to when I was a general in the national army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), all that time as a soldier I believed that my job was to ensure the security of the entire population without any discrimination whatsoever.

I would like to add that at no time have I not been thinking about this trial. I have been asking myself everyday how it was possible that the trial chamber judges were able to arrive at the decision that they arrived at. My defense team is an excellent team and in the course of the trial they provided all the explanations necessary. They conducted themselves properly before the trial chamber and so I am wondering how it is possible that the trial judges ended up convicting me.

The way witnesses who came and told lies before the judges – I do not understand how they used my logbook. When I arrived here, my own leader told me that the defense team wanted to use my logbook and I thought that that would lead to my release. There were events that took place in 2002 and 2003 which are recorded in those logbooks and they constituted crucial elements in the trials involving the UPC/FPLC, and my conduct during those conflicts are in those documents. So I do not understand why the trial judges did not take into consideration all that material and information. In spite of all this, I continue to believe in the principle of fairness that is the hallmark of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr. President, your honors as the Judges of the Appeals Chamber, I fully believe that you will fully take into consideration all the submissions made by my defense team by closely assessing the decisions taken by the trial chamber, particularly in relation to the witnesses who did not tell the truth, and [that] based on that, you are going to review my conviction. Even if this leads to a new trial, which will require a lot of time, I am fully prepared for that.

To conclude your honors, I would like to say a word to all the population of Congo and all the Lendu [ethnic community], and I will tell them that the video excerpts that they saw during the trial were not a movie. This means that I am calm and serene and I am anxiously waiting for your decision in this case.”