International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Lubanga's Defense Opening Statement – Witnesses Lied, Lubanga is Not Guilty

NOTE FROM EDITOR: Below is an unofficial transcript of the opening statement of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo’s defense team today, presented by his lead counsel, Catherine Mabille. It seems clear the defense is going to take two tracks in the coming months: (1) challenge the truthfulness and integrity of prosecution witnesses, arguing that many of them were not in fact child soldiers; and (2) argue that Mr. Lubanga was not part of a common plan to recruit children to be part of the armed militia wing of his political party (arguing that the militia was in fact controlled by others), but instead Mr. Lubanga did everything he could to try to demobilize child soldiers.

“First of all, the defense intend to prove to the chamber that many of … Continue Reading

As another trial restarts at the ICC……

As the defense case for Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is set to start this week, another trial focussed on the Democratic Republic of Congo will also pick up speed again at the International Criminal Court: the trial focussed on Germaine Katanga and Matthieu Ngudjolo. And their trial is being followed by a great site run by the Aegis Trust here: http://www.aegistrust.org/Katanga-Trial/. The Aegis Trust site makes readers feel like they are actually sitting in the courtroom watching the trial unfold before them. 

Just as background, here’s some basics on the Katanga and Ngudjolo trial:

On September 30, 2008, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I issued its decision on the confirmation of charges against Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. Both are from the Lendu ethnic group, and both … Continue Reading

Why Are Victims Testifying Now?

Horrific stories of murder, sexual slavery and beatings emerged in the courtroom this week as victim participants took the witness stand in the trial of Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, at the International Criminal Court.  A schoolmaster told of his suffering allegedly at the hands of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia who hit him with gun butts as he tried to prevent them from abducting his students. A former child soldier spoke of seeing his friends killed  “like flies” during battle. A third victim, also a former child soldier, is set to testify next week.  But these victims are not testifying for either the prosecution or the defense case, so why are they testifying now?

In short, the ICC … Continue Reading

Q&A With Luc Walleyn, Lawyer For Victims In Lubanga’s Trial

Luc Walleyn’s team has represented 22 of the 103 victims participating in the Thomas Lubanga trial since 2006. He spoke to the Lubanga Trial website’s Wairagala Wakabi about the importance of victims participating in ICC trials, the opportunity missed by not charging Lubanga with sexual crimes, and why the victims’ lawyers are not happy with the attitude of Lubanga’s defense team.

 

Wairagala Wakabi: The appeals court has decided that no new charges could be brought against Mr Lubanga. Do you see a missed opportunity in Lubanga not having been charged with sexual and inhumane treatment crimes?

 

Luc Walleyn: After the appeal decision there was a new discussion on the consequences of this appeal decision and on Friday (January 8, 2010), a final … Continue Reading

What's The Buzz About The Trial's First Day Back?

Media buzz around the Lubanga trial spiked again today as the UN expert on Children in Armed Conflict, took to the stand as an expert witness to testify about the  plight of girl soldiers in particular when judges contemplate the definition of the crimes of conscripting, enlisting and using child soldier to participate actively in hostilities.

Here’s a brief round-up of the first batch of articles to emerge:

Radio Netherlands picked up the issue of the particular plight of the girl soldier, as discussed by Ms. Coomaraswamy in her testimony today, by focussing on the individual story of one girl soldier – identified by the psuedonym “Yolande” — in Ituri, DRC. She tells of being raped by a militia soldier and taken as his “wife”. Yolande also said the soldier taught … Continue Reading

And now, over to Thomas Lubanga…..

In the coming months, we will now get to hear Thomas Lubanga’s side of the story.

Between January and July last year, we heard horror stories from prosecution witnesses, often former child soldiers, who told of life as a child soldier in the UPC militia camps – the rapes by camp commanders; children abducted on their way to school and forced into the life of soldiers; the physical scars inflicted on them in battle, and the hidden psychological ones which emerged as they returned to their communities, only to be rejected by their families and friends. Prosecutors allege that Mr. Lubanga is responsible for the crime of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in his militia force. Mr. Lubanga has pleaded not … Continue Reading

What Can We Expect To Hear From The UN Expert On Children and Armed Conflict Today?

Expansive and inclusive definitions of child soldiering crimes – and why girl soldiers deserve special attention – will likely be the focus of today’s testimony as the trial of Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, starts up again at the International Criminal Court today after a six month long hiatus.

Mr. Lubanga has pleaded not guilty to war crimes charges of “Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities.” Mr. Lubanga is also expected to appear in court today.

The person taking the stand, however, will be Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN special representative on children and armed conflict, who appears today at the Trial judges’ request as … Continue Reading

The Case Against Lubanga So Far

Compelling testimony from former child soldiers was the main feature of the prosecution’s case against Thomas Lubanga.

Evidence heard included stories of the brutal treatment of boys and girls at the hands of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) military groups. Various witnesses testified about continuous beating, rape, near starvation and other abuses suffered during their time with the UPC.

Although their testimony involved tragedy and suffering, the prosecution has a very difficult charge to prove. This is because Lubanga, president of the UPC and on trial for conscripting and using child soldiers in his militia, was generally removed from the front-lines. There is little evidence to suggest that he himself was involved in physically committing the acts described above.

Therefore, although it … Continue Reading

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Voices From the Ground

The Lubanga trial project, a joint initiative of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting Netherlands and the Open Society Justice Initiative, went on the road last month – to the city of Bukavu in eastern Congo’s South Kivu province.

DRC project coordinator Charles Mukandirwa and office assistant Backar Burubi met with lawyers, NGOs, journalists, students, religious leaders and local chiefs from July 26-August 3 to introduce them to the project and get their views on the trial and the International Criminal Court

It was clear that people had little information on the Lubanga trial but were nonetheless extremely interested in the latest developments in The Hague.

They also had many questions for the project team.

Pascal Munoka of the NGO Action pour le … Continue Reading

Witness Protection: Successes and Challenges in the Lubanga Trial

During the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the first for the International Criminal Court, challenges to effective witness protection have become apparent.  The court, and in particular presiding Judge Adrian Fulford, has been active in its approach to witness protection.

 However, short and long-term problems plague the witness protection program, and will demand diligence and financial support from the court as more trials begin. 

 Legal Basis for Witness Protection

 The court has an obligation under its founding document, the Rome Statute, to protect witnesses.  At trial, the judges have the power to take all “necessary steps” to protect witnesses and their families, including the use of private hearings and the presentation of evidence electronically or by “special means.” 

The judges can raise issues about … Continue Reading