Katanga Defence Say Witness Testimony Inconsistent
Alleged contradictions in prosecution witness’s account of events around Bogoro attack probed. By Anjana Sundaram - International Justice - ICC ACR Issue 275, 29 Oct 10
Defence lawyers for alleged Congolese warlords Germain Katanga and Matthieu Ngudjolo have sought to weaken the testimony of a prosecution witness by pointing out apparent inconsistencies in his statements.
During his testimony before the International Criminal Court, ICC, which began on October 15, the witness – who spoke with voice and face distortion – provided new details on the planning of the February 2003 Bogoro attack.
Prosecutors provided the witness with a map and asked him to circle all the villages where Lendu and Ngiti military camps were set up. The witness asserted that these camps were all established before the attack on the Ituri town of Bogoro.
However, in cross-examination last week, defence counsel David Hooper questioned the accuracy of the witness’s drawings, asking him if he had visited all the military camps.
“I don’t believe I said that I entered inside the camps to visit,” the witness responded. “But the camps were located near the open public markets or the roads that people used to go to the markets.”
Hooper then pointed to the location of one camp, marked Lengambo, which he said was actually named Lagabo, adding that the witness appeared “to have circled a place and meant somewhere totally different”.
The witness accepted that he had made a mistake.
Katanga and Ngudjolo are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the attack on Bogoro. Katanga is alleged to have led the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri, FRPI, while Ngudjolo was allegedly leader of the National Integrationist Front, FNI.
Hooper also pointed out other apparent contradictions in the witness’s statement, which was prepared by Office of the Prosecution, OTP, investigators before the trial began.
The defence counsel said that in a deposition given on November 19, 2008, the witness claimed to have been present at a meeting to discuss the Bogoro attack in which Katanga outlined the campaign strategy to other commanders.
In the deposition, investigators asked the witness, “Before this Sunday [before the Bogoro attack], had you participated in meetings in which they spoke about the attack of Bogoro?”
The witness replied that he had not.
But during his testimony last week the witness said he had not been present in the meeting which occurred on the Sunday before the Bogoro attack.
After the defence pointed out this apparent anomaly, the witness said, “The planning on the attack of Bogoro was not done during one meeting only. You will notice that there were several meetings held for several attacks.”
The witness had described in his prepared statement hearing bombs and shouts in Bogoro at around 5am on the morning of the attack.
Hooper questioned the accuracy of this account, since the witness had been in the village of Aveba that morning. The witness had stated prior to this that when in Aveba he had not been able to hear similar explosions in an attack on the town of Nyakunde, which is located closer to Aveba than Bogoro.
“How is it possible that you could not hear fighting in Nyakunde but you could hear fighting in Bogoro, 50 kilometres away?” Hooper asked.
The witness replied that geography played a key factor. The Omi mountain range crossed between Aveba and Nyakunde, making a sound barrier that was not present near Bogoro, he said.
The trial will resume on November 1.
Anjana Sundaram is an IWPR reporter.