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Defense Witness Breaks Down Again

A defense witness who was set to begin testifying for the third consecutive day today broke down for the second time, forcing court to delay the resumption of hearings.

When Judge Adrian Fulford asked court officers to bring Claude Nyéki Django, the 20-year-old witness, into the courtroom, they reported back to the chambers without him.

“The witness is apparently extremely upset. He has broken down, and I have therefore asked someone from the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) to see him and for us to be told what their assessment is of the appropriate way of proceeding,” Judge Fulford announced before adjourning.

About half an hour later, the judge said a psychologist had spoken to the witness and was of the view that although the witness had been upset and was likely to remain upset during the course of the morning, “it is appropriate for him to continue giving evidence not least because he has indicated his willingness to continue.”

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, Django’s testimony had been suspended when he broke down in tears as he described how militiamen from the Lendu ethnic group killed his mother while he and his young siblings hid under a bed. He was escorted out of the courtroom. 

Django is the third witness called by the defense of Thomas Lubanga, who is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in 2002 and 2003. He has denied the charges.

Under cross-examination by the defense, Django today reiterated that the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) – the group Lubanga allegedly headed – did not conscript any child soldiers. He said children voluntarily joined the group. Most of those who joined were street children, but there were also some pupils who abandoned school to join the group when they saw soldiers of their age extorting money from civilians, Django said.

Earlier on Tuesday Django testified that although he was never in the armed forces, he and other boys who had equally never served in any military group were taken to a meeting where it was claimed that they were former child soldiers in UPC.

Today Django completed his testimony, most of it given in closed session. The fourth defense witness will appear on Monday February 15, 2010.