Crimes of Bogoro: International Criminal Court’s first acquittal Upheld

Congo (the Democratic Republic of the)International justiceNewsVictim’s rights

Brussels/The Hague, 27 February 2015 – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) regrets the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) today to reject the Prosecutor’s appeal in the Bogoro case. This ruling puts an end to proceedings against former warlord Ngudjolo Chui for crimes committed in the Congolese village. For ASF, besides the legal debate, this ruling pronounced nearly 12 years to the day after the event leaves victims without any answers as to who was responsible for the crimes they suffered.

Mr. Ngudjolo Chui was charged along with another defendant, Mr. Katanga, with the attack committed on the village of Bogoro, located in Ituri, in eastern DR Congo, on 24 February 2003. This attack led to the deaths of at least 60 people, including women, children, babies and the elderly. After surprising the villagers in their sleep, the attackers continued to pursue those trying to flee. They killed the victims on the ground and injured many civilians. Women were raped and taken away to be used as sex slaves. Houses and public buildings were systematically looted and destroyed.

This 27 February 2015, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC upheld (by three judges to two) the Court’s original acquittal delivered in 2012. As a reminder, the Trial Chamber found that the Prosecution evidence did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Ngudjolo acted as leader of the attackers.

This issue of the standard of proof and evidence assessment was at the heart of the Prosecutor’s appeal, supported by the victims’ lawyers. Another ground of appeal in 2012 also raised important questions of fair trial and the effective ability for the Prosecutor to prove her case. This ground had revealed the existence of contacts, during the trial, between Mr. Ngudjolo Chui and Defence witnesses. The Prosecutor had also revealed that the defendant had given instructions to locate protected Prosecution witnesses or members of their families in order to intimidate them. By decision of the Trial Chamber however, the Prosecutor was not permitted to make use of these facts when presenting evidence during the trial.

The hearing on 27 February 2015 in ICC Courtroom I in The Hague © ICC-CPI

“Today’s decision seriously raises the level of evidence required to convince judges of a defendant’s guilt. This goes beyond the Bogoro case, since this ruling will have a global impact on ongoing and future cases. Therefore, the Prosecutor will have to pay more attention to the quality of evidence that needs to be produced to convince the judges”, said Jean-Philippe Kot, ASF’s International Justice Expert. “Nevertheless, we hope that the opinion of the two dissenting judges will counterbalance the impact of this ruling.”

Furthermore, this case raises the question of the Prosecutor’s strategic choices in her investigations and prosecutions.

Others involved in the attack had been identified during the trial proceedings. “That is why the perpetrators of crimes in Bogoro still need to be prosecuted”, says Jean-Philippe Kot. ASF invites both the ICC Prosecutor and the Congolese authorities to actively consider possible actions in this direction.

From the beginning of the case, ASF, in collaboration with Congolese associations, has been working alongside the victims to help them participate in the proceedings.

Furthermore, ASF continues to closely follow up questions relating to reparations in the case of Mr. Katanga, convicted of complicity by the Court in 2012.

Cover picture: Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui © ICC-CPI