The Thomas Lubanga defense today called their third witness who testified that although he was never in the armed forces, he and other boys who had equally never served in any military group were paraded before some unnamed people as former child soldiers.
The witness, Claude Nyéki Django, said a man known as Dudu took him and other boys to a meeting in the Congolese town of Beni where it was claimed they were former fighters. During the brief moments when he testified in public session, Django did not say what the mission of that meeting was.
But he recalled that together with Dudu’s son and “many” other boys who met the unnamed people in Beni, they were moved from eastern Congo to a house in the capital Kinshasa, where they were confined for several months.
Django, who said he is aged 20 years, testified with his face fully visible and his voice undistorted. Most prosecution witnesses testified with voice and face distortion in order to safeguard them from possible reprisals. But the defense has charged that such extensive protective measures offered cover to witnesses who were deliberately intent on telling court lies.
Although Django did not have protective measures, he testified in public session for less than one hour and then gave the rest of his testimony in closed session. It was therefore not known what role, if any, he and the other boys subsequently played in the Lubanga trial.
The two defense witnesses who preceded Django recounted how intermediaries of the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) bribed relatives of young boys to fabricate evidence that they were former child soldiers. One of those boys appeared as a prosecution witness at the Lubanga trial and claimed he was a former child soldier in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), according to the defense’s second witness who claims he is his father of that witness.
Lubanga, whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleges was the leader of UPC and the commander-in-chief of its armed wing, faces the war crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers. He is is said to have committed the crimes during 2002 and 2003.
Defense counsel Marc Desalliers today questioned Django about the meeting in Beni:
Desalliers: Did Dudu know that you had never served as a child soldier?
Django: He knew that very well.
Desalliers: Could you tell us what Dudu told the individuals you met in Beni with respect to that fact?
Django: Dudu did not say in his own words that I was not a child soldier. Why didn’t he do that? He expected me to be the one to give the account. He simply told me what I had to say and he told me to accept that I had served as a child soldier.
Django said he had wanted to tell the people in that meeting that he had never been a soldier. But when he tried to talk, one of the men ordered him to remain quiet.
Dudu’s contacts later took the boys to Kinshasa with promises of offering them vocational training. Instead, they were locked up in a house for months. “We slept all day and at night time we slept as well… we were just in the compound, we couldn’t even move about.”
From this point, Django gave his testimony in closed session so it was not clear what subsequently happened to him and the other boys in the house. His testimony continues.