A former child soldier told the International Criminal Court on Friday that she was repeatedly raped by commanders in Thomas Lubanga’s militia.
The young woman said she was conscripted at the age of 13 and was sexually assaulted, yet never received treatment for her injuries and still suffers pain.
The unnamed witness, in her second day of testimony, also said she suffered effects from the drugs she took while in the militia.
The militia commanders encouraged fighters to take drugs before going to fight, purportedly to give them courage, and those who showed signs of fear were put at the frontline of the battlefield, she said.
Three weeks after her initial rape, she felt pain in her lower abdomen, she said. “Nobody can understand what I went through. My virginity was taken in a very cruel way and up to now I still have pain.”
The witness told the court that the militia commanders routinely had forced sex with female recruits, but male recruits and soldiers were never violated.
She rejected suggestions by Lubanga’s defense lawyer, Jean-Marie Biju-Duval, that she was an adult at the time she joined Lubanga’s militia in 2002, and that she had been a member of a rival militia since 1999.
“I told you when I was enlisted in (the) UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots) I was 13 years-old. I don’t understand what counsel is saying to me,” she said.
Asked if she was still suffering the consequences of serving in the militia, she said: “I used to be a virgin before. But they took my virginity. I saw blood everywhere… (and now) I have no brother or sister. When I think about it, I feel like killing myself.”
Judge Adrian Fulford often referred to the witness’s frail physical condition, and at one point ordered an unscheduled break due to concerns for the witness’s “physical comfort.”
In response to questions from Hervé Diakiese, a lawyer for victims in the trial, the witness said that during her four weeks of training, she wore the same clothes that she wore when she was abducted.
“If you washed the clothes, you had to wear them wet and they would dry on our bodies,” she said.
The witness said she was shot in the leg during fighting and still feels pain. “I suffer pain in my feet and even in my bones I have acute pains.”
After running away from the militia, she was alone, she said.
“When I left the army, I didn’t have a home I could go to. I was a street child because I did not have a domicile; I didn’t have parents, a father, mother, brother, or sister. I remained a street child (until) some woman took pity on me and took me in with her.”