Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Witness Speaks of Mandro Attack

A prosecution witness describes assault on town, just days after Bogoro raid.
By IWPR ICC
A prosecution witness has claimed that forces commanded by two alleged Congolese warlords carried out an attack on the Ituri village of Mandro, shortly after a raid on another settlement in which scores died.



Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging and the use of child soldiers during conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC. Both have pleaded not guilty.



Their charges relate to an attack on Bogoro in 2003 when roughly 200 people were killed and much of the village burned.



The witness, testifying as Witness 250 with voice and face distortion before the International Criminal Court, ICC, said that the attack on Mandro, not far from Ituri's main town of Bunia, occurred two or three days after the one on Bogoro and was carried out by the “same force” .



Prosecutor Eric MacDonald said that discussing the defendant’s involvement in Mandro was an important factor in proving events in Bogoro.



“Intention and knowledge of the accused is at the heart of these proceedings,” MacDonald said. He added that the same crimes perpetrated in the same manner in various locations helped to establish intent, in this case regarding Bogoro. The witness told the court that Mandro fell in a similar way to Bogoro, although he did not give specific details.



The witness said that the Patriotic Resistance Force, FRPI, and the National Integrationist Front, FNI, allegedly headed by Katanga and Ngudjolo respectively, were responsible for planning the attack on Mandro.



When MacDonald asked for specific names of the planners, Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said the information was unnecessary. “When mention is made of FNI or FRPI it is not difficult to guess who is at the head of these two groups,” he said.



The discussion of Mandro began after the court denied a request from MacDonald to declare the witness hostile. MacDonald said the testimony given last week contradicted previous statements given by the witness, and thus the prosecution wanted permission to ask leading questions and “refresh the memory” of the witness.



MacDonald told the court that contradictions related to the nature of the destruction and pillaging in Bogoro, the presence of civilians, the presence of child soldiers and the content of songs sung by soldiers to keep up morale.



But the court ruled on February 9 that the witness had complied with the majority of the prosecution’s questions, and that the contradictions were not significant enough to declare the witness hostile.



“The answers which were more evasive or did not consort with other observations, cannot in themselves make it possible for Witness 250 to be declared as hostile,” Judge Cotte said. “The chamber would like to stress that the simple fact of sometimes having unfavourable answers is not in itself enough to have a witness declared hostile.”



In discussing the attack on Bogoro this week, the witness continued to assert that no civilians were present. Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC, soldiers occupied Bogoro at the time of the alleged FNI/FRPI attack.



When Judge Cotte asked the witness if the FNI/FRPI general staff gave instructions on how to deal with non-combatants that the soldiers might encounter in Bogoro, the witness replied, “There were no civilians at this time.”



But MacDonald told the court, while the witness was not present, that the witness’s statements from December 2006 and June 2007 “indicated or stated that civilians had died [in Bogoro]”.



Judge Cotte also asked the witness about child soldiers who were present during the attack on Bogoro. The witness told the court that it was difficult to guess the age of the people he was with.



But MacDonald argued that this was at odds with what the witness had said in his previous statements.



He said that the witness had previously mentioned that children under the age of 15 were within the FRPI and present in camps, and had given information about how many were present in each camp and what their responsibilities were.



The trial continues next week.



Emily Ponder is an IWPR intern in London.