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Recruits Executed for Trying To Flee

A former soldier in Thomas Lubanga’s militia said he witnessed the execution of a young recruit who attempted to flee militia training.

He also told the International Criminal Court that young female recruits could not refuse to have sex with militia commanders.

While the training was strenuous and those who failed to keep up were punished, the witness said he did not try to escape for fear of being executed.

Militia recruits could be executed for losing a weapon or attempting to leave Lubanga’s Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) training camp.

“You could be executed in front of everyone,” the witness said. “I saw that. (Also) if you tried to flee military service and you were stopped, you would be executed.”

When Prosecutor Julieta Solano McCausland asked who administered the punishments, the witness said: “If somebody had been caught in the middle of training, they were put in front of everyone. It was said this soldier was trying to flee, so they gave order to execute this person.”

“Did you ever see for yourself anyone being executed for trying to flee?” asked McCausland.

“Yes. In Irumu I was witness to a case in which a young man tried to flee. He was put in front of everyone to show that anybody who tries to flee will be subjected to the same fate. He was killed and I was a witness to that.”

He then added, “Our commander gave an order to a soldier who had a weapon. He said ‘take a weapon and execute this young boy who tried to flee, and give an example to everyone who tries to flee’.”

The witness said he was abducted at the age of 15, just outside of his former school. Also abducted were boys and girls, some younger than himself, he said.

Boys and girls slept in the same place at the training camp, he said. “We were told that in the army there are no boys and no girls. We all sleep in the same place.”

But while recruits like him were too tired after training to think about sexual relations, it was different for their commanders, he said.

“Some commanders took girls who were recruits and said today you come and sleep with me,” he said.

“Could the girls say no to the commanders?” the McCausland asked.

“No. The commanders would come along, choose a girl and go with the girl. So the girl wasn’t allowed to say no.”

The witness is the seventh to appear in the Lubanga trial and will continue his testimony next week.