International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Court Ratifies Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence Judgment

The High Risk Appellate Court upheld the historic Sepur Zarco judgment this week after unanimously rejecting the three appeals presented by the defense counsel of the two military officials convicted last February in the case. The judges read the summary of the ruling in an open session on Wednesday afternoon.

High Risk Tribunal A, presided over by Judge Yassmín Barrios, handed down the judgment on February 26, 2016. The trial court found Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón, former commander of Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig, guilty of all charges, sentencing them to 120 and 240 years respectively.

The court sentenced both officials to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity against 14 women who were … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Testimony Enters Fourth Week as Court Goes on Recess

On Friday, the testimony of former Congolese rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) entered its fourth week. It was also the last day of hearings before the court goes into summer recess.

On June 14, Ntaganda took the stand to testify in his defense at the ICC. He has since recounted his involvement in various rebel groups, which he said was motivated by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and inspired by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. Ntaganda told judges that he left his post in Rwanda’s national army to participate in groups that were fighting to liberate the Democratic Republic of Congo from the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.

Ntaganda explained that the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), in … Continue Reading

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ICC Appeals Chamber Reverses Decision on Laurent Gbagbo’s Detention; Orders New Review

On Wednesday, July 19, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) reversed Trial Chamber I’s ruling that former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo should remain in custody and ordered a new review in regards to whether he should be released. Gbagbo, who is 72 years old, has been in court custody since November 30, 2011 on four counts of crimes against humanity. He has sought interim release multiple times while in ICC custody, but the trial chamber has denied previous requests in part due to an alleged pro-Gbagbo movement that could help him escape, making him a flight risk.

The Impugned Decision

The trial chamber ruled in its March 2017 decision that circumstances had not changed enough to warrant Gbagbo’s … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Denies Executing Insubordinate Rebel Fighters in Congo

On Wednesday, former Congolese rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda denied shooting dead a rebel fighter of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia for allegedly refusing to participate in combat operations. While giving testimony in his own defense at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ntaganda also rejected prosecution claims the militia in which he was a top commander shot dead fighters who were caught while attempting to desert.

“Is the information that you shot an individual who was 24 years old because he refused to participate in an operation true or not true?” asked prosecution lawyer Nicole Samson.

“I never executed any soldier from the UPC. I never killed a soldier who allegedly refused to go to the front,” replied Ntaganda.

Samson’s question was … Continue Reading

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M. Ntaganda nie avoir exécuté des combattants rebelles réfractaires au Congo

Mercredi, l’ancien commandant rebelle congolais Bosco Ntaganda a nié avoir abattu un combattant rebelle de l’Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) pour avoir refusé de participer à des opérations de combat. Alors qu’il apportait un témoignage pour sa propre défense devant la Cour pénale internationale (CPI), M. Ntaganda a également rejeté les affirmations de l’accusation selon lesquelles la milice au sein de laquelle il occupait des fonctions de commandant de haut rang avait abattu des combattants qui avaient été surpris alors qu’ils tentaient de déserter.

« Est-ce que l’information selon laquelle vous auriez abattu une personne de 24 ans parce qu’elle aurait refusé de participer à une opération est exacte ? », a demandé le substitut du procureur Nicole Samson.

« Je n’ai jamais exécuté aucun soldat de l’UPC. … Continue Reading

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M. Ntaganda nie avoir été le chef militaire de la milice de l’UPC

Dans la suite de son témoignage apporté devant la Cour pénale internationale (CPI), Bosco Ntaganda a nié les affirmations de l’accusation selon lesquelles il était de facto le chef militaire de la milice dénommée Union des patriotes congolais (UPC).

Lors du contre-interrogatoire mené par l’accusation, M. Ntaganda a déclaré qu’en 2002 et 2003, il était subordonné au chef d’état-major de l’UPC, Floribert Kisembo. Il a ajouté qu’il était également subordonné à Thomas Lubanga qui était le chef politique du groupe.

« Vous court-circuitiez M. Kisembo lorsque vous donniez des ordres et répondiez aux commandants. Est-ce exact ? », a demandé le substitut du procureur Nicole Samson.

« Si je les court-circuitais, alors notre armée aurait été détruite », a indiqué M. Ntaganda, qui exerçait les fonctions de chef d’état-major de l’UPC.

Lundi, … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Denies Being Military Leader of UPC Militia

In his continuing testimony at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Bosco Ntaganda has denied claims by the prosecution that he was the de facto military leader of the militia known as the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).

Under cross-examination by the prosecution, Ntaganda stated that during 2002 and 2003, he remained subordinate to the UPC’s chief of general staff, Floribert Kisembo. He added that he was also subordinate to Thomas Lubanga who was the group’s political leader.

“You bypassed Kisembo when giving orders and responding to commanders. Is that right?” asked prosecution lawyer Nicole Samson.

“If I short-circuited him, then our army would be destroyed,” said Ntaganda, who served as deputy chief of general staff in the UPC.

On Monday, Samson presented communication logs … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyer Doubts Witness Worked Closely with Ongwen

A defense lawyer challenged a former fighter of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) on some of the details of his testimony about the LRA’s attack on the Odek camp for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. That attack took place in 2003.

Abigail Bridgman on Monday also questioned whether Witness P-054 was present during an LRA attack on the Abok camp for internally displaced people (IDP).

Witness P-054 had testified on Friday that he took part in the attacks on the Abok and Odek IDP camps. At the time, the witness was as a member of the LRA’s Sinia Brigade, and he said the commander of that brigade was Dominic Ongwen.

Bridgman is one of the lawyers representing Ongwen, who is on trial … Continue Reading

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Court to Rule on Appeal of Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence Verdict

On July 19, the High Risk Appellate Court in Guatemala will announce its resolution on three appeals presented by two former military officials convicted last year in the historic Sepur Zarco sexual violence case. The appeals seek to overturn the February 26, 2016 verdict by High Risk Tribunal A, presided over by Judge Yassmín Barrios.

The trial court found Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón, former commander of Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig, guilty of all charges, sentencing them to 120 and 240 years respectively.

The trial court sentenced both military officials to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity against 15 women who were the victims of sexual violence and sexual and domestic slavery. In … Continue Reading

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Witness Describes Being Under Heavy Fire During Attack on Abok IDP Camp

A former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) about his role in attacks on the Abok and Odek camps for internally displaced people (IDP) that occurred 13 years ago.

Witness P-054 told the court on Friday he took part in the attacks as a member of the LRA’s Sinia Brigade. He said Dominic Ongwen was the brigade commander of Sinia at the time of the attacks.

Ongwen is on trial for his alleged role in the attacks on the Abok and Odek IDP camps in 2004. He has also been charged for his alleged role in attacks on two other IDP camps, namely Lukodi and Pajule. He faces a total of 70 counts of war … Continue Reading

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