Commanders in Thomas Lubanga’s militia used young kidnapped girls to provide “sexual services,” a former militia member told judges Tuesday at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
“I heard the cries of girls myself with my own ears,” said the anonymous witness, who continued his testimony from Friday. “There was a row of houses for the commanders [in the training camp] and you could listen to girls saying ‘I don’t want to.'”
He and his fellow soldiers, the witness said, “were not that high ranked that we had any power over this.”
Lubanga, the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), is charged with conscripting and using child soldiers to fight for his militia in the ethnic conflicts that raged in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003.
While Lubanga is not charged with crimes of rape or sexual slavery, both the prosecution and the victims’ representatives focused on the subject during their opening statements.
The witness, whose face and voice were digitally distorted during testimony, told prosecutor Manoj Sachdeva that he would often see the same girl with one commander for weeks at a time, prompting some of the soldiers to make comments.
“Often soldiers put questions to the girl,” the witness said. “[Such as,] ‘You are the wife of the big commander and because of that you don’t go fighting.'”
The girls were also used as domestic servants and as bodyguards for the commanders, the witness said.
The defense did not cross-examine the witness about girl soldiers, however, prompting Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito to question the witness herself.
The witness told Benito that the girls and boys received the same training and that the girls would shoot and fight in combat.
The witness also said that the girls were flogged once for “spending the night in the trainers’ houses.”
When asked by the Lubanga’s defense about drug use among soldiers, the witness said it was widespread among all ranks.
“There were soldiers who took drugs, took hemp,” the witness later told prosecutors. “It wasn’t authorized. Nonetheless… [soldiers] of all ages took drugs… officers and captains and majors…even the little ones. There was one child we called Rasta–he took drugs.”
The trial continues tomorrow morning with testimony from a relative of the prosecution’s first witness, a young man who earlier recanted his story about having been kidnapped and taken to a training camp of Lubanga’s militia.