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Defense Questions Former Officer

Thomas Lubanga’s defense counsel on Wednesday challenged a former officer in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia about the use of child soldiers and his statements that they were used as bodyguards.

Under cross-examination by attorney Jean-Marie Biju-Duval, the witness said he was wary of answering in public, and asked often for the court proceedings to be closed. The court complied.

The witness said in open court, however, that most UPC commanders did not take all the children they collected into the militia.  “Some children were too young and you could not allow them (to join the militia),” he said.

The defense contended that individual military officers in UPC, rather than top leaders such as Lubanga, were responsible for recruitment of child fighters.

Biju-Duval objected to what he called “leading questions” by the prosecution regarding the alleged presence of child soldiers among Lubanga’s bodyguards.

The former officer was the fifth witness to testify since the trial resumed on May 5. Prior witnesses have included an unnamed former political leader in Ituri region where UPC operated and a social worker who counseled child soldiers, including those in UPC. 

The court has also heard from two age-determination experts asked to estimate the age of former child soldiers who have testified in the trial, but at the time they served in the militia. 

Court will resume next Tuesday May 26, when this witness will continue his testimony.