By: Andrew Kramer
Impunity Watch Staff Writer
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On February 13, 2020, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) issued a decision authorizing the 2,129 victims who participated at the trial of Bosco Ntaganda to present their views and concerns regarding his appeal. The victims, through their legal representatives, have 30 days to file their observations in respect to their personal interests in the issues on appeal.
Article 68(3) of the Rome Statute allows for victim participation at all stages of proceedings in the ICC, however it defers to the Court to determine what stages are appropriate for each case. According to the Statute, victim participation must not be prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial.
Victim participation is a crucial aspect of the ICC judicial process, however it carries great risk. Participation gives victims a voice in proceedings, and allows the Court to gather a better understanding of the truth. In the context of sentencing decisions, participation provides the Court with a firsthand account of the magnitude of a convict’s actions. Because of this, victims may be subject to intimidation and violence. While the ICC does employ protective measures for witnesses and victims in the courtroom, the witness protection program is limited. The Court often operates far from the home countries of witnesses and victims, and protection after proceedings largely relies on agreements between the ICC and national security programs.
After victim observations have been filed, Ntaganda and the Prosecutor will have an opportunity to respond to them, and the appellate process will move forward. The Appellate Chamber of the ICC consists of a panel of five judges. Among their responsibilities, the appeals judges may confirm, reverse, or amend a decision of guilt or innocence, ensure the sentence is proportionate to the crimes, and revise a final judgement of conviction or sentence if new evidence is later found.
Ntaganda is appealing the entirety of his conviction decision, as well as his sentence. On July 8, 2019, Trial Chamber VI convicted the former Congolese general of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 2002-2003. He is only the fourth person to be convicted of international crimes by the ICC, and the first to be convicted of sexual slavery. On November 7, 2019, he was sentenced to a total of 30 years of imprisonment.
The Prosecution has also filed an appeal, asserting the Trial Chamber made errors of law which led to the acquittal of Ntaganda of criminal responsibility for attacks of a church in Sayo and a hospital in Mongbwalu.
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