Commanders in Thomas Lubanga’s militia impregnated young female recruits, a former soldier in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) told prosecutors on Tuesday.
“[The commanders] took girls and would get them pregnant, and then these girls had to leave the camp and go [back] to the village,” said the witness, who trained young recruits at the Mandro center, about 12 miles outside the Ituri city of Bunia.
The witness continued his testimony from Friday and spoke in Swahili with face and voice distortion.
The female recruits, he said, had no choice but to comply with commanders.
“You had to obey orders whether you wanted to or not,” the witness said. “The recruits weren’t considered human beings, so if someone – a girl – was taken by a commander…this had to be accepted.”
Some of the impregnated girls were as young as 14 or 15-years-old, the witness estimated.
He also spoke of seeing children that age, both boys and girls, fight in Mongbwalu, a northern Ituri town known for its gold mines.
“Do you know if children used their weapons?” asked prosecutor Manoj Sachdeva.
“When you are participating in a fight, you have to fight,” responded the witness. “[The children] used weapons.”
The UPC did not win that battle in Mongbwalu, the witness said. After the milita returned to its Bunia headquarters, the witness said he overheard high ranking UPC officials, including Lubanga, discuss a second attack on the town.
“What was Thomas saying at the meeting?” asked Sachdeva.
“All they kept saying was Mongbwalu,” replied the witness, who added that he was instructed to stand guard outside the room where the meeting took place.
Two days later, the witness said, the UPC traveled back to Mongbwalu to fight again. The militia was successful this time, he said, and soldiers pillaged the area for a full week afterwards.
In a surprise interruption of the day’s proceedings, Lubanga stood up in court and complained about a person seated in the public gallery.
“I’m having difficulties with the attitude with someone in the public and I feel he wants to make a drawing of me,” Lubanga told presiding Judge Adrian Fulford. “I have found it impossible to concentrate from the very beginning.”
“I can see that this is extremely disturbing for you,” said Fulford, who then ordered the person in the gallery to immediately stop what he was doing.
The cross-examination by defense attorneys was conducted almost entirely in closed session. The trial will resume tomorrow.