A former platoon commander in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia on Thursday confirmed the presence of child soldiers in the militia, and that Thomas Lubanga was the group’s leader.
The witness, who testified only briefly in public session and with sound and visual distortion to protect his identity, said the child soldiers in the UPC were about 13- or 14-years-old.
Lubanga has been accused of conscripting and using child soldiers to fight in ethnic conflicts in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002 and 2003.
The witness also confirmed Lubanga’s authority in the UPC.
“If we found ourselves in difficulties, we would go and meet Mr. Lubanga,” the witness said.
At the time, Lubanga met often with a person the witness referred to as “The Elder.”
The witness said he did not know what Lubanga and The Elder discussed.
“I never took part in any meeting between The Elder and Lubanga. I therefore can’t confirm what was said,” the witness explained. “When I would come, it was to explain difficulties I had. Then I would leave.”
However, Lubanga and The Elder met “quite often,” the witness said, but was unsure if the meetings were weekly or monthly.
The witness had first appeared publicly in court last Friday, but proceedings were abruptly stopped when the court learned his testimony was intended for closed session.
Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford admonished prosecutors for inadequate protective measures for the witness.
The witness continues his testimony on Friday.