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The mission of Child Soldier Relief Foundation (CSR), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization designated by the Internal Revenue Code, is to advocate on behalf of child soldiers by serving as a central repository of information on all topics relating to the topic of child soldiers.

Lubanga Trial: First Week in Review

This entry is by Kate Davey, our new legal analyst at Child Soldier Relief.

This week has seen opening statements and testimony in the Lubanga Trial.  One of the major issues that has come out of the trial is the witnesses’ safety and the reliability of their testimony. 

On Monday, Lubanga pled not guilty to charges of “enlisting and conscripting of children under the age of 15 years into the FPLC (Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) and using them to participate actively in hostilities” punishable under articles 8(2)(b)(xxvi) and 8(2)(e)(vii) of the Rome Statute.

The AFP reported on Wednesday that the first witness, a former child soldier, and Lubanga were able to see one another during the witness’ testimony:

The boy gave evidence from behind a screen to protect him from public view, although Lubanga, as well as the judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers can see him.

As the BBC reported, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked for a delay of the trial after the first witness recanted his testimony that he had attended a military training camp:

We are convinced it [the witness’ safety concerns] has an effect on the testimony the witness is giving now,’ she told the three judges.

On Thursday, Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford indicated the witness would not be able to continue giving testimony until experts from the Victims and Witnesses Unit were able to discern whether it is in the best interest of the witness to continue.  He stated, “One of the difficulties that’s been brought to our attention is the possibility, and I put it no higher than that, that the witness has been simply overwhelmed by the number of different people who have been speaking to him and the amount of information that’s been provided to him.”

Roger Muchuba of the Coalition for the ICC believes that the witness recanted his testimony because he feared for his family’s safety “knowing that his testimony would be broadcast on TV.” Muchuba believes the Court should offer “more guarantees for the safety of victims-something that has not been well defined so far and that has worried many more than just the witnesses themselves.”

On Friday Rachel Irwin, a journalist from The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, reported the trial wrapped up with testimony from a second former child soldier who stated Lubanga gave pep talks to child soldiers before battles and used children in battle. The witness also stated that he and other children joined the militia because Lubanga’s men threatened them: “‘If you don’t join our army, your village will be razed down.'” 

The trial resumes on Monday.

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Filed under: Human Rights, Intl Criminal Ct, Lubanga Trial, , , , , ,

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