Thomas Lubanga’s defense opened today at the International Criminal Court (ICC), with his lawyers declaring that they would produce evidence to show that agents of the Office of The Prosecutor helped to fabricate the testimony of several witnesses who were called by the prosecution.
Catherine Mabille, Lubanga’s lead counsel, said they would produce 16 witnesses who would, among others, show that the witnesses presented by the prosecution as former child soldiers were bogus, and then they would ask judges to discontinue the case.
“In particular we intend to demonstrate that all the individuals who were presented as child soldiers as well as their parents in some cases deliberately lied before this court. The defense intend to show that six of them were never child soldiers, the seventh lied about his age and the conditions in which he enrolled, and the eighth never belonged to the UPC,” she said.
Lubanga is the first person to be tried by the ICC, which alleges that he was the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). The ICC also alleges that Lubanga was the commander-in-chief of the FPLC from September 2002 to the end of 2003, and that during this time he committed war crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers.
Mabille said the defence did not intend to show that there were no minors amongst the ranks of the FPLC. But they would endeavour to answer fundamental questions such as: Did Lubanga initiate the recruitment of minors into the UPC forces? Did he help recruit minors in one way or another? And what was his attitude to the presence of minor children amongst the UPC troops?
After Mabille’s introductory statements, the defense called their first witness but he gave most of his testimony in closed session. Defense lawyers said at the start of today’s hearing that while they had earlier expected the witness to testify in public, he had later indicated that he wanted to have protective measures for security reasons. The witness testified with voice and face distortions to protect his identity.
In the brief moments when he gave testimony in public, the defense witness was questioned about his son and when he had last seen him. He said his son had left home in 2007 and that he had not seen him since then. He also said that his son had never served in any armed group, and during the whole of 2002 and 2003, his son stayed with him at home in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.