International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Ntaganda Starts His ICC Testimony, Says Rwandan Genocide Drove Him to Fight in Congo

Former Congo army general and rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda took the witness stand on Wednesday at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to testify in his own defense and recounted how witnessing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda drove him to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Rwandan genocide saw the killing of up to 800,000 individuals, mainly members of the Tutsi ethnic group.

“I was one of those who put an end to the [Rwandan] genocide,” said the 43-year old who faces 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. “I was young, but I was already in the army … I was a platoon commander, and I witnessed horrific events.”

“Did the genocide contribute to transforming you into the … Continue Reading

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Judges Decline to Restrict Ntaganda Contacts During His Testimony

Trial judges have rejected prosecution requests to slap a range of restrictions on Bosco Ntaganda during his upcoming testimony at the International Criminal Court (ICC). They determined that the measures suggested by the prosecution were unnecessary or not enforceable.

Among others, judges declined to bar Ntaganda from meeting his lawyers during his testimony that is expected to last for up to six weeks. The judges also declined to order Ntaganda’s lawyers to tell defense witnesses not to watch the accused’s testimony in any manner.

Ntaganda, a former rebel commander in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will take the witness stand in his own defense on Wednesday, June 14. Only one witness has so far testified for the defense, which says it has lined … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Impeding Testimony at the ICC Raises Contentious Issues

Bosco Ntaganda’s impeding testimony at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has put into focus some contentious issues related to the protocols under which an accused person may testify in their own defense. Issues under contention include whether the court’s witness preparation procedures should apply to the accused and prosecution proposals to prohibit communication between the accused and his lawyers for the duration of his testimony and to restrict defense witnesses from following Ntaganda’s testimony in “any manner.”

On May 17, 2017, judges granted a defense request for Ntaganda to testify in his own defense, with his testimony expected to last for up to six weeks starting June 14. The former rebel leader has been on trial at the ICC since September … Continue Reading

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Witness Says He Was Turned Away from UPC Training Camp for Being Underage

The first witness to testify in Bosco Ntaganda’s defense at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has recounted how Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) commanders turned him away when he volunteered to join the militia group because they deemed him to be underage.

Olivier Maki Dhekana, who began testifying yesterday, stated that his motivation for joining the UPC was to protect members of his Gegere ethnic group, who were under attack from rival groups during 2002 and 2003. Ntaganda, who was the deputy chief of staff of the militia group, is on trial facing 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including enlisting and using children under the age of 15 years in an armed conflict.

However, during cross-examination prosecution lawyer Eric … Continue Reading

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Bosco Ntaganda’s Defense Case Opens at the ICC

Today, a lawyer representing Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) outlined the defense case for the former Congolese rebel leader who is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In his opening statement, lead defense counsel Stéphane Bourgon stated that defense evidence “will show that Ntaganda is not guilty for crimes as charged but he contributed to minimizing the number of victims in Ituri.”

According to Bourgon, prosecutors adopted an “incomplete and selective approach” by presenting their case through a “narrow lens” that failed to adduce crucial contextual evidence on the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict in Congo’s Ituri region. “The defense will submit evidence that should have been with the prosecution who has the burden of proof, but … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Defense Case Opens Next Week

The defense case of former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda opens on Monday, May 29, at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda has been permitted to testify on oath for six weeks, and he also plans to call more than 110 witnesses – the biggest number to be presented by either the prosecution or the defense in a case at the court based in The Hague.

Next week’s proceedings will start with the presentation of the defense’s further opening statement, after which defense witnesses D-54, D-52, and D-210 will testify. Proceedings will then be adjourned until June 14 when Ntaganda will take the witness stand.

The former head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) faces 18 counts of war crimes and … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda to Testify For Weeks in His Own Defense

Bosco Ntaganda will take the witness stand next month to testify in his own defense at his International Criminal Court (ICC) trial. According to his lawyers, the former Congolese rebel leader’s testimony could last for up to six weeks.

In an interview today with the International Justice Monitor, defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon explained why Ntaganda has decided to take the witness stand—unlike most individuals who have previously been tried at the ICC.

“Mr. Ntaganda wants to establish, himself, that he’s not the person portrayed in the media and elsewhere. He wants to establish who he is, what he did, and why he did what he did,” said Bourgon. He added that Ntaganda surrendered voluntarily to the court and was willing to face … Continue Reading

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No Stay of Proceedings in Ntaganda Trial

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have rejected a request by Bosco Ntaganda to stay proceedings in his trial over allegations that he could no longer be assured of a fair trial because prosecutors wrongly accessed critical defense information. In an April 28 ruling, judges considered that it was possible to continue conducting a fair trial for the former Congolese rebel leader.

Last March, Stéphane Bourgon, who heads Ntaganda’s defense team, argued that a stay of proceedings was the only adequate remedy after the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) acquired thousands of recordings of the accused’s conversations, including those on defense strategy and his personal knowledge of the case. The records were acquired while the OTP investigated Ntaganda for witness tampering under … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Plans to Call More Than 100 Witnesses

Bosco Ntaganda’s lawyers have disclosed that they intend to call 111 witnesses to testify for the former Congolese rebel commander who is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda faces 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
 
At a status conference held today, defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon stated that the defense remained intent on calling the record number of witnesses on the list that it provided to judges and the prosecution. However, defense lawyers have not completed taking statements from all their prospective witnesses.
 
The prosecution in the Ntaganda trial called 71 witnesses, who testified between September 2015 and February 2017. Many of these witnesses appeared before court only briefly and consented to their prior recorded testimony – … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda to File ‘No Case to Answer’ Motion at ICC

Lawyers for Bosco Ntaganda are planning to file a no case to answer motion, in which they will request International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to acquit the former Congolese rebel commander without him presenting a defense case.

The indication of the expected filing emerged in an April 13 submission by defense lawyers asking judges to grant them an extension to the deadline for filing the request. The extension was necessary because the court’s case management system was down for days as new software was being installed. This had made it impossible for defense lawyers to access the court record and evidence submitted in the case.

Ntaganda has been on trial in The Hague since September 2015, and the prosecution last month closed its … Continue Reading

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