International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Ntaganda Lawyers Granted More Time to File Closing Brief

Former Congolese rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda’s lawyers have been granted a two-week extension to the deadline for filing their closing brief. The defense had requested an extra three weeks, citing, among other reasons, staff attrition from the defense team and anticipated delays in translating the prosecution’s closing brief into the Kinyarwanda language.

In the May 29 ruling, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) determined that, whereas “good cause has been shown to grant an extension,” two weeks would be sufficient. Accordingly, the defense has until July 2, 2018 to file its brief.

Ntaganda is on trial at the court based in The Hague over 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed during an ethnic conflict in Congo’s … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Trial Judges Reject Prosecution Bid to Present Rebuttal Evidence on Credibility of 18 Witnesses

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have denied prosecution requests to submit rebuttal evidence following the close of the defense case in the trial of former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda.

The prosecution had sought to rebut defense evidence that questions the credibility of 18 dual-status witnesses, meaning prosecution witnesses who are also participating in the trial as victims. Furthermore, the prosecution sought to present a rebuttal witness whose evidence would dispute Ntaganda’s testimony that he lacked knowledge about a deadly attack by his fighters on a Congolese village in February 2003.

Ntaganda’s trial at the ICC for 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity started in September 2015 and saw the prosecution present the evidence of 71 witnesses. The defense … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Defense Closes Its Case After Calling 19 Witnesses

Lawyers for war crimes accused Bosco Ntaganda have closed their case after calling 19 witnesses to testify at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The number of witnesses who gave evidence for the former Congolese rebel commander is much lower than the 111 individuals whom the defense had earlier indicated it would call.

According to defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon, the defense called four witnesses that testified orally at the seat of the court in The Hague and another eight who testified remotely through the use of video link. Among the witnesses was Ntaganda himself, who testified for up to 120 hours over six weeks.

In addition, the evidence of seven defense witnesses was admitted through Rule 68 of the court’s Rules of Procedure … Continue Reading

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Judges Abandon Idea of Conducting Ntaganda Closing Statements in Congo

An endeavor by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to conduct part of a trial hearing in a situation country has failed once again, after judges trying former militia commander Bosco Ntaganda abandoned their intention to hold closing arguments in his trial in Congo.

In a March 16, 2018 decision, the judges said that because of “the present security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” and “the preparation time required for any such hearing to be arranged,” they did not intend to recommend to the court’s Presidency that closing statements be held in situ. They added, however, that they may consider holding certain other future hearings in situ, if deemed appropriate and feasible.

The town of Bunia, which bore the … Continue Reading

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Judges Lift All Restrictions on Ntaganda’s Communications and Visits

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have lifted all restrictions that were imposed on war crimes accused Bosco Ntaganda’s communications and visits. The restrictions were put in place two and a half years ago after the prosecution alleged that he was trying to influence witnesses.

In a ruling last month, judges determined that since the evidentiary phase of the case was coming to a close, it was no longer necessary to maintain these restrictions on the former Congolese rebel leader. The restrictions had been imposed to ensure the safety of witnesses, prevent breaches of confidentiality, and ensure the integrity of proceedings.

Judges have now determined that, without further evidence of misconduct, maintaining any restrictions on Ntaganda’s communications would “unduly impinge upon his fundamental … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Witnesses Complete Testifying at the ICC

Lawyers for Bosco Ntaganda have completed oral presentation of evidence in the former Congolese rebel commander’s trial. However, they are continuing to present the defense case, including through documentary evidence and the previously recorded testimony of witnesses.

According to defense lawyers, their case was significantly cut short once judges allowed Ntaganda to testify at the start of the defense case, as that made it unnecessary to call some of the witnesses that had earlier been lined up. Following the completion of Ntaganda’s testimony, the defense slashed the number of its witnesses to 40 – nearly a third of the 111 witnesses whom they had indicated that they intended to call back in May 2017.

Ntaganda, who has been on trial at the … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Lawyers Support Holding Closing Statements in Bunia, Congo

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges trying former rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda are considering hearing the closing statements in his trial from Africa, either in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the crimes he is on trial for were committed or “at a location relatively proximate to it.”

In response, Ntaganda’s lawyers have said they support the closing statements being heard in the eastern Congo town of Bunia, which they termed “the place closest to the persons most interested” by Ntaganda’s trial.

However, they warned that taking the hearing far from Bunia, for example to Congo’s capital Kinshasa or to Arusha, Tanzania “would not be meaningful and [would] actually defeat the purpose sought.” Arusha, where the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sat, … Continue Reading

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Child Soldiers’ Age at Center of Recorded Witness Testimony Admitted Into Ntaganda Trial Evidence

Having cut the number of their witnesses from 110 to about 40, Bosco Ntaganda’s lawyers are also submitting recorded testimony of several witnesses as opposed to calling them to testify in person. This has reduced the time over which the defense will present its case in Ntaganda’s trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Judges have recently granted a defense application to admit the prior recoded testimony of six defense witnesses. The defense submitted that calling witnesses to testify about very specific information would not be in the interest of an expeditious trial or the efficient use of court resources.

The statements were admitted under the court’s Rule 68(2)(b), which provides that if the witness … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Hearings Resume with Testimony Challenging Witness Who Alleged Sexual Relations in Congolese Militia

On Monday, the defense for war crimes accused Bosco Ntaganda presented a witness to challenge the testimony of a prosecution witness who testified about allegations of non-consensual sexual relations within the militia that Ntaganda commanded.

In the brief moments of open court, he said he was a trader in eastern Congo’s Ituri province during the 2002-2003 ethnic conflict, when Ntaganda and his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) fighters allegedly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In an October 2017 application to add Witness D207 to its list of witnesses, the defense stated that his anticipated testimony directly contradict the testimony of prosecution Witness P898.

However, challenging the defense request, the prosecution stated that Witness D207’s proposed testimony was not relevant as it … Continue Reading

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Alleged Rape of Child Soldiers the Focus of Ntaganda’s Latest Witness

The alleged rape of child soldiers in a Congolese militia was the focus of Thursday’s testimony by a witness called by lawyers for former rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda, who has been on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) since September 2015, is charged with 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the rape and sexual abuse of child soldiers.

Witness D251, who served with the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) rebel group, disputed the account of a prosecution witness known as Witness P10, an alleged former UPC child soldier, who said there was sexual abuse within the UPC. She testified largely in closed session.

According to the defense, the testimony of Witness D251 – a female fighter … Continue Reading

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