A defense witness told the Thomas Lubanga trial that his son appeared before the court as a prosecution witness and lied about serving as a child soldier in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), the group which the International Criminal Court (ICC) says was led by Lubanga.
Under cross-examination by the prosecution’s Manoj Sachdeva, the witness said he had talked to his son about his having testified at The Hague trial of Lubanga, who is accused of war crimes related to using child soldiers in armed conflict.
“Wouldn’t the fact that your son was coming here to lie, according to you, wouldn’t that be a reason to go to the police?” Sachdeva asked.
“No, that would not have been [a] reason. My son told me that he came here in full daylight, that he did not hide, and that it was your office, your court, who called him here to confirm whether yes or no he had been a child soldier,” retorted the witness. “So why do you want me to go and see the police? Do you believe that the police might get in the way of someone who wants to come here or put somebody in prison as a result?”
The witness, the first to appear for the defense since their case started on January 27 2010, said that he had heard rumors around his village that he had received money to send his child to the Hague to lie that he had been a soldier in UPC. Subsequently, his son had telephoned and spoken to him, although the two have not met since the boy – whom the father described as “rebellious” – left home in 2007.
“Did you tell ICC officials that your son was coming here to lie about being a child soldier?” Sachdeva asked.
This question prompted defense counsel Marc Desalliers to remind the prosecution that last week the witness had told them that he did not recall when he first heard that his son was going to testify at the ICC. Sachdeva’s question “would presuppose that the witness knew that his son was coming to testify before the court,” Desalliers charged.
Judge Adrian Fulford concurred with Desalliers. “In a sense the first question in this is, when did the witness first know that his son had testified before the ICC and had said that he had been a child soldier,” Judge Fulford said. “Having identified that date, one can then find out whether or not the witness discovered that at a time that would have made it relevant or appropriate to complain to the ICC…”
Sachdeva then asked the witness when he first knew that his son was going to testify at the ICC, and to allegedly lie about his involvement as a child soldier.
“As far as the date is concerned I no longer recall but I think it was in the year 2008,” the witness replied, but only after being advised by the judge to provide a direct answer to the question when he had given what the judge and Sachdeva deemed indirect answers.
Judge Fulford asked the witness whether he had told the ICC officials who visited his home in Congo that his son had never been a child soldier.
“Yes, I did tell them that because they put the question to me clearly to tell the truth,” the witness responded.
The witness, who first gave evidence on the day the defense case started, has said that his son run away from home in 2007, and he later learnt that the boy had been passed off as a child soldier by a non-government organisation with offices in Beni in eastern Congo and in the capital Kinshasa.
He said he said that throughout 2002 and 2003 – the period over which Lubanga is alleged to have conscripted and used child soldiers – he was at home with his son and that at no time did the boy serve in any military group.