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Katanga, Ngudjolo Trial Postponed

Second witness testimony ends as court forced to adjourn proceedings.
By Charles Ntiricya
The International Criminal Court, ICC, has had to delay proceedings in the trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, taking place in The Hague, after one of the judges was involved in a road accident. The trial will now start again on January 26.



The trial had been due to run until December 11, before taking a break for Christmas and reconvening in January.



The news of the trial postponement was delivered by presiding judge Bruno Cotte, who told the court on December 2 that Christine Van Den Wyngaert, the Belgian judge, had been involved in a car accident.



He gave no more details and the ICC declined to comment further.



Under ICC rules of procedure, a quorum of three judges must be present in the courtroom for the trial to proceed.



Fatoumata Dembele Diarra, the other judge, also did not appear on December 2.



Katanga, the former leader of the Patriotic Resistance Force, FRPI, and Ngudjolo, the ex-head of the National Integrationist Front, FNI, are accused of planning the February 24, 2003 attack on the Ituri village of Bogoro, which killed about 200 people and burned much of the village to the ground.



The two defendants are charged with ten counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging and the use of child soldiers.



Both pleaded not guilty to each charge when the trial began on November 24.



This week, the second witness in the trial, a Congolese national who testified anonymously, concluded his evidence.



On November 30 and December 1, this witness, whose testimony had begun the week before, continued to give his account of the attack on the Ituri village of Bogoro, which occurred on February 24, 2003, and left around 200 people dead.



He expanded on the number of groups that had attacked the village and claimed that, besides the Ngiti and Lendu, the Babira tribe were also involved.



When asked by David Hooper, the defence lawyer for Katanga, how he could be certain they were Babira, the witness replied, “They spoke Kibira. The path that they took was from their territory. It was war and so no one else could have come from that direction. Those who survived the Babira ambush also confirmed to me that they were Babira.”



The FRPI was formed from the Ngiti ethnic group while the FNI comes from the Lendu.



The Babira are believed to have been supporting both groups in attacking Bogoro village, which at the time was occupied by the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC, an ethnically Hema militia led by Thomas Lubanga, now also on trial in The Hague.



The witness, who was hiding in the bush during the fighting, said that, at the time of the attack, he had not heard of the two groups accused of planning the attack.



"[I only learnt this] when I was a refugee in Uganda after the Bogoro attack,” he said.



A third witness, who should have begun his testimony on December 2, will now take the stand on January 26.



Charles Ntiricya is a Congolese journalist and an IWPR trainee.