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Lubanga Misses Court As ‘Age Expert’ Testifies

An age-determination expert said Tuesday that x-ray images taken of former child soldiers in the militia of accused Congolese leader Thomas Lubanga, indicate some were around the age of 15 years.

According to the prosecution, the images were taken at the end of 2007 and in January 2008. This would suggest that the former child soldiers were much younger when they served in Lubanga’s militia which was active in 2002 and early 2003.

Lubanga has been accused of conscripting and using child soldiers – defined as young people under the 15 – in military actions by his militia.

Prof. Catherine Adamsbaum, a renowned pediatric imagery expert based in France, said her examination of the 2007-2008 images showed that the witnesses were 15 or 16 years-old at the time the images were taken.

Adamsbaum, who heads the pediatric imagery department at St. Vincent de Paul hospital in Paris, examined the images along with two other experts.

Judge Adrian Fulford said Adamsbaum was one of two witnesses the court had invited to help determine the ages of some of the former child soldiers who have been called to give evidence at the trial.

Adamsbaum explained that she and her colleagues studied images of the hands and wrists, and in some instances the dental formulations of the witnesses, a standard practice for determining the age of men less than 20 years-of-age and  women under the age of 18.

Adamsbaum said that not all of the images indicated the witnesses were so young, however, and that some witnesses were males above 19 years-of-age.

Lubanga was absent from court when Adamsbaum testified due to ill health, according to presiding Judge Fulford, who did not state the precise ailment.

Lubanga’s doctor had been called to the detention unit to see him, Fulford said, and Lubanga was reportedly improving.

“We’ve also heard and we’re pleased obviously with news that it seems he is feeling somewhat better,” he said.

Lubanga’s illness could have delayed the trial, Fulford said, because, “The accused has a right to be present, and it is for him to decide whether to waive this right.”

Lubanga’s lawyer Catherine Mabille said her client advised her on Tuesday morning that proceedings could start without him, “because we are talking about expert witnesses.”