By Niklas Jakobsson
In what can only be described as one of the most interesting opening statements in the brief history of the International Criminal Court, Bosco Ntaganda’s defence counsel Stéphane Bourgeon became the talk of social media.
If you weren’t fortunate enough to view his 45 minute statement, I suggest you make the time (although it’s currently only available in French). With a handful of metaphors, Bourgeon went on to explain how the defence team would counter the evidence laid out by the Office of the Prosecutor.
Being a military man himself, Bourgeon went on to tell a story from his time serving in Canada. What he said left some people scratching their heads: “If it looks like a duck, goes quack quack like a duck, it must be a duck”. His point was that if it’s too apparent (that it’s a duck), something is wrong. This was seemingly a stab at the extensive evidence the prosecution has against his client.
But the use of metaphors had only begun. Ten minutes after the duck incident, Bourgeon started talking about ‘the old lady’. For those of you who don’t know, it’s an optical illusion in which a picture of an old woman, viewed differently, turns into a beautiful woman. To nail down the point, Bourgeon put the picture up on screen during his statement.
In all fairness, the substance of the Ntaganda defence opening statements was far from just analogies and metaphors. They addressed several of the key issues related to Bosco Ntaganda’s role in the crimes he’s charged with.
In total, the defence was allocated three hours for its opening statements. The most anticipated part would come right at the end. On the day before, the Court had been made aware the Bosco Ntaganda himself would make an unsworn statement.
Throughout the opening statements, Ntaganda had previously only spoken once, when he declared not guilty on all 18 counts he’s been charged with. As the time came around for his statement, Ntaganda didn’t look phased by the moment.
Regardless of how comfortable and calm Ntaganda looked, for most people it was all about substance. What was he going to say? How was he going to say it? What was going to be his main point?
Ntaganda wrapped up two intense days filled with mixed reactions. The narrow scope of the case, which leaves out crimes allegedly committed in Kivu, left a sour taste in the mouths of many observers.
But the overall sentiment was a sense of justice being done at some level. The trial against Bosco Ntaganda will continue for several years. A possible appeals process would draw out the trial for even longer. At least international justice observers can find solace in the fact that the proceedings are underway, and justice in some form is on the cards.
- What was your biggest takeaway from the start of the Ntaganda trial?
- How did you perceive the opening statements from both sides?
- What was your impression of Ntaganda’s statement?
The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.