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Lubanga Defense Heads To Congo for ‘Critical Research’

The Thomas Lubanga trial today took a break to allow his attorneys to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to conduct what Judge Adrian Fulford referred to as “critical research”.

As a result, there will be no hearings until Wednesday March 3, 2010, Judge Fulford announced today, just after the fifth witness called by the defense had completed giving evidence. This witness, and the one before him, testified in closed session hence it was not possible to know what their testimony was about. Both of them testified with extensive protective measures.

Today, Judge Fulford directed the defense team and representatives of the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) to meet and resolve an outstanding issue which he said related to research which the defense wished to carry out during their visit to the DRC next week.

Mr. Lubanga is being tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the war crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003.

He has denied the charges, and his defense has said it will prove to court that prosecution witnesses were coached, and that those who testified as former child soldiers actually never were. The ICC alleges that Mr. Lubanga headed the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and was commander-in-chief of UPC’s armed wing which used child soldiers.

Since the defense case started on January 27, 2010, five witnesses have been called. The first three witnesses testified that intermediaries of the Office of The Prosecutor (ICC) bribed and duped some boys and their parents or guardians into joining the alleged scheme to fabricate evidence.