Defense lawyers in the trial of accused militia leader Thomas Lubanga on Tuesday questioned conflicting testimonies by a witness who said he was abducted and turned into a child soldier.
The witness, who was not identified, told the International Criminal Court the discrepancies were because he was afraid to tell the truth to investigators when he was first interviewed in an International Red Cross camp in 2005.
Defense lawyer Jean-Marie Biju-Duval noted differences in the witness’s statements in 2005, 2006, 2008, and the testimony he has given so far in court.
In recent statements, the witness claimed to have been taken by Lubanga’s soldiers late one morning as he was leaving school.
The witness said he and other students had seen a military vehicle from their classroom, and assumed the soldiers were there to protect them.
Although he and others knew that young people from other villages had been forced to become child soldiers, the witness said he left the school, while others stayed in the classroom or went to the playground.
Soldiers then surrounded the school, he said, and forced some students into a vehicle, taking them to a military camp in a nearby village.
After hearing the witness confirm this account, Biju-Duval read from a 2005 statement in which the witness said he was recruited from home.
When asked to explain the difference, the witness said he had been afraid to talk to the “white man” who asked a lot of questions.
But when he realized the interviews were “something serious,” he told the truth, which was that he was recruited while leaving his school, he said.
Following his recruitment, the witness said he was taken to a military camp for less than a month, then to another where he spent several months, before being sent to yet a third camp.
When Biju-Duval asked the witness why the camp name in the statements differed, the witness said he thought the “white man” might broadcast his statements on the radio.
“You can’t understand,” the witness told the court, “because you are here in Europe. I don’t know what the security situation is like here in Europe, but at home people die in all kinds of ways.
“If they are interviewed by a white person and heard on the radio they could be killed.”
The witness is expected to continue tomorrow.