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Witness Met Lubanga To Discuss Child Soldiers

A child protection specialist told victims’ lawyers today that she personally met with Thomas Lubanga to discuss the issue of forced enlistment.

Witness Christine Peduto, who worked for the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), said she met with Lubanga on May 30, 2003 at his home in the town of Bunia.

“Contrary to the reaction of other armed groups I had previously met with, there was no indication [on Lubanga’s part] of any willingness to cooperate,” Peduto said. “There was no sign of open-mindedness or any willingness to actually discuss the matter.”

Peduto said that, on another occasion, she spoke with Floribert Kisembo, a high-ranking official from the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).

“We had a security incident in one of the transit centers [for demobilized children],” she said. “I personally phoned Kisembo to inform him that the UPC had penetrated the interior of the center.”

Testifying for a third consecutive day, Peduto spoke in French without any of the usual protective measures, such as face and voice distortion.

Peduto told the court that she interviewed many child soldiers, and all but a few of the girls had been raped by commanders or other soldiers in the UPC. The youngest were about 12-years-old, she added.

“Some of the young girls portrayed this as a marriage,” she explained. “They would talk about their first legitimate relationship. That’s the way they perceived it.”

The girls only began to realize what was happening after they were given to multiple commanders, Peduto said.

“It dawned on them that it wasn’t a legitimate relationship with the first officer,” she said. “The [psychological and physical] state of the young girls was quite terrible, quite catastrophic.”

There is no hearing scheduled for Friday but court will reconvene on Monday.