A former child soldier deflected questions during cross-examination today and accused Thomas Lubanga’s defense lawyers of trying to trap him.
“What you’re doing is satisfying yourself with information provided to you by your client,” the witness told Marc Desalliers, one of Lubanga’s lawyers. “Perhaps the court will decide that [Lubanga] is innocent…. But what I say [is that] … even if he didn’t commit these things with his own hands, he was the leader.”
The unnamed witness, who continued his testimony from last week, spoke in Swahili with face and voice distortion.
When pressed about discrepancies between his original statement to investigators and his testimony in court, he defended himself by saying, “You cannot explain everything you went through at any given time. Sometimes it takes 20 or 30 statements. I said what was important [at the time].”
Defense lawyers, however, asserted that the witness had left out a major detail in his original statement to prosecutors when he did not say he had been part of part of the Lubanga’s Union of Congolese Patriot’s (UPC) militia.
“Is it correct that during your first meeting with investigators, you never mentioned that you were a member of UPC at any time?” asked Desalliers.
“That’s correct,” the witness responded. “I did not wish to give them that information.”
The defense alleged that the witness originally told investigators he had been part of the ethnic Lendu militia known as the Front for National Integration (FNI) – a main enemy of Lubanga’s ethnic Hema UPC militia.
The witness did not deny that he fought with the FNI after he left the UPC, but the details of his time with the FNI were never clarified in open session.
Instead, the witness explained why he did not mention the UPC during his first meeting with investigators.
“This story about the UPC, I will not tell it [to] my children,” he told the court. “Nothing hurts me more than what I lived through in the UPC. I never like to tell it to anyone.”