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Defense Questions Victim About His Abduction

In their continuing cross-examination of a former child soldier who is the second victim to appear at the trial, Thomas Lubanga’s defense has dwelt on the circumstances surrounding his capture by Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militiamen, and the roles he played while he was with the group.

The punishments which the victim said were meted out to trainees in UPC military camps, the manner in which he sustained wounds during battle at a place called Bogoro, and how he escaped from UPC, have also been the subject of questioning by the defense team at the International Criminal Court.

The victim has testified that UPC fighters abducted him and took him to a prison and then to a camp where he underwent military training under brutal conditions. He subsequently took part in battle at Bogoro – in which he told the court that many of his friends were killed – and then escaped from the militia group.

Lubanga, whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) says was the leader of UPC, is on trial for the war crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003.

On Tuesday, defense counsel Marc Desalliers asked the witness whether he was indeed abducted in the second part of February 2003 as he had told court earlier.

“Today we are in 2010. It would be impossible for me to say whether it was at the end or the beginning [of the month],” he said. “That question seems to be difficult to me and I can’t give an answer, except an erroneous one.”

While questioning the witness about the terrain of Bogoro, the clothes which UPC’s rivals wore, and how UPC fighters traveled to the battlefront, Desalliers said, “if I suggest that UPC was never attacked by FNI [the militia group Front for National Integration] at the 2nd camp, would you change what you have said?”

The witness said he did not understand what the defense counsel was saying.

Desalliers then said he was putting it to the witness that UPC was never attacked at the camp where the witness had said he underwent training.

The witness replied that still he did not understand what Desalliers was talking about.

Judge Fulford intervened, advising the defense counsel that a more direct form of questioning would work better than “a slightly more baroque style of putting your case”.

“The rather formal procedure that certainly works when questioning bankers and financiers and such, formally putting your case, may work with witnesses of that [nature but] for those completely unused to trial proceedings of this nature, it is difficult to understand.”