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UN Envoy To Testify On Interpretation Of Charges

The United Nations special envoy on children and armed conflict will appear at the Lubanga trial on Thursday to testify on the definition of the charges which the former Congolese militia leader faces.

The ICC said on Wednesday that Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative of the UN secretary-general on children and armed conflict, would appear before the court upon request of the judges.

Coomaraswamy would testify as an expert witness on the definition of “conscription or enlistment of children”, and on the interpretation of the term “using them to participate actively in the hostilities”, the court said in a statement.

Lubanga is accused of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia group, and using them to participate actively in armed conflict between September 2002 and August 2003.

When she appears before the court this week, it is expected that she will speak out on the sexual crimes which were committed by militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including the UPC which Lubanga allegedly led.

In her written submission to the ICC on March 17, 2008, Coomaraswamy suggested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should specifically address the plight of girls who served in the UPC militia, including the sexual violation they suffered.

She recommended that the crime of using children to “participate actively” in hostilities should be understood to include the sexual violence suffered by girls forced to join Lubanga’s militia.

Dr Noelle Quenivet, author of the book Sexual Offenses in Armed Conflict and International Law, explained to the Lubanga Trial website last year that girls in the militia fought, mined for diamonds, engaged in spying, cooked, cleaned, performed sexual ‘services’, and provided medical assistance.

She added: “Although many of us may consider such activities as ‘active involvement’, the law is so interpreted as to cover only ‘acts which by their nature and purpose are intended to cause actual harm to the personnel and equipment of the armed forces’.”

Quenivet said the Lubanga trial would have to define ‘conscripting or enlisting children’ and ‘using children to participate actively in hostilities’ in more details than has already been done.

Besides Coomaraswamy, the Chamber has invited another expert, Prof. Kambayi Bwatshia, who will address the court on names and other social conventions in the DRC.