International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

What's The Buzz About The Trial's First Day Back?

Media buzz around the Lubanga trial spiked again today as the UN expert on Children in Armed Conflict, took to the stand as an expert witness to testify about the  plight of girl soldiers in particular when judges contemplate the definition of the crimes of conscripting, enlisting and using child soldier to participate actively in hostilities.

Here’s a brief round-up of the first batch of articles to emerge:

Radio Netherlands picked up the issue of the particular plight of the girl soldier, as discussed by Ms. Coomaraswamy in her testimony today, by focussing on the individual story of one girl soldier – identified by the psuedonym “Yolande” — in Ituri, DRC. She tells of being raped by a militia soldier and taken as his “wife”. Yolande also said the soldier taught her how to shoot people, or else be killed herself.  The article discussed the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims projects in the DRC and Yolande’s desire to see punishment for the leaders of the war.  See the story by Hélène Michaud here: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/lubanga-trial-monster-stole-my-childhood.

The Associated Press focussed on Ms. Coomaraswamy’s statement that court cases like Lubanga’s and those at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (which also prosecuted the recruitment of child soldiers during the West African nation’s conflict which last more than a decade) is having an impact on decisions made by armed groups about releasing child soldiers from their grasp out of fear of prosecution themselves: http://www.seattlepi.com/national/1103ap_eu_war_crimes_congo.html

Meanwhile the AFP discussed Ms. Coomaraswamy’s assertion that the recruiting of child soldiers was “particularly abusive” because “[t]he lack of the concept of death makes them fearless in battle, often thinking of it as a game and rushing straight into the line of fire.” You can read the full article here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gjtGOGph7LouRtPN3u5C2AFg2zoQ

Meanwhile, freeland journalist Sheila Valez wrote an overview piece on the Lubanga trial which was published on AllAfrica.com and was ranked its “most read” article on the DRC today.  She gives life to the feeling of sitting in the courtroom in The Hague and watching the trial unfold.  In providing background to the trial and to Thomas Lubanga himself, she arrives at the conclusion that the trial does matter: “Whatever its outcome for Thomas Lubanga, the message this trial sends is new: Use children as soldiers, even in a war as lawless as that in the Congo, and one day you may forfeit your liberty.  So for anyone who values children, the future of our world, this trial matters.”  The article is available here: http://allafrica.com/stories/201001060050.html

The case with resume again tomorrow with another expert witness, before three victim participants will testify.  The defense case will likely begin in earnest by mid month.