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Former Child Soldier’s Testimony Challenged

A witness in the trial of Thomas Lubanga admitted on Wednesday to contradictions between his testimony in court and his earlier statements to court prosecutors.

During cross-examination by defense counsel Marc Desalliers, the witness, referred to in court by the pseudonym Patrick, agreed that his statements contained conflicting details about the battles he fought, his time in the militia, and how he joined.

In interviews with court investigators in 2005, Patrick stated that he could not forget the battle of Lipri “because there is the first time that I killed someone.”

Desalliers reminded Patrick that he said in court that he shot people at an earlier battle at a place named Barrier.

“So… the first time you killed someone was in Barrier, not in Lipri?” asked Desalliers.

“Yes,” responded Patrick

Patrick made statements to prosecutors that he had fought in Bunia and Lipri. But in the courtroom he then said he only fought at Lipri and Barrier.

“Is it true you gave false information in your application for participation?” asked Desalliers.

“It may be that I said that, but I did not participate in the battle in Bunia,” Patrick said.

“Can you explain why the Barrier battle is not mentioned at all in this document?” the counsel asked, referring to his earlier statement.

“I do not remember any more. There is no reason why I didn’t say it. …but I know I did not fight in Bunia,” Patrick replied.

Desalliers asked Patrick why he said in court that he had voluntarily joined the militia, yet in his statement to investigators in July 2005 he said he had been forced to join.

“When investigators came to meet me the first time (in 2005), I told them I was enlisted by force. Maybe it was the interpreter who made an error,” said Patrick.

He also said it was the court interpreter’s mistake that had created the impression during his court testimony that he had voluntarily joined the force.

In the July 2005 statement, however, Patrick was quoted as saying that he had met a group of Lubanga’s fighters “who requested me to follow them, join military training and fight against Lendu enemies.”

The statement then quoted him as saying that because he hated the ethnic Lendu fighters, who he believed had killed his mother, “immediately I accepted to join the militia members,” which suggests he volunteered.

During cross-examination, Patrick said his mother was alive at the time he joined the militia, but insisted that he was forcefully conscripted.