A defense witness in the war crimes trial of former Congolese leader Thomas Lubanga said today that he lied to the country’s demobilization authorities that he had served as a solider. ‘Witness 23’ said he went on to take part in a demobilization exercise for former combatants.
The unnamed witness, the eleventh called by the defense, testified with face and voice recognition. He said he assumed the identity of his friend, who was unable to continue with a training program that was being offered by the Congolese National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of ex-combatants (CONADER).
“On the third day [of the training for ex-combatants], I went to continue with the rest of the program since he was absent. He had another very important business to take care of and that is why he requested me to go and continue with the program,” explained “Witness 23’.
“On the third day you participated in classes, then on the fourth day you got your photo identity card?” asked prosecuting lawyer Manoj Sachdeva.
The witness replied: “Yes, on the third day we attended the last classes and on the fourth day we came to withdraw the card as well as the sums of money that were paid to us. Then we received all the items which I mentioned.”
‘Witness 23’ stated that he received the demobilization card on April 1, 2005.
“You did not tell the truth to CONADER, did you?” Mr. Sachdeva asked the witness.
The witness replied that after the war in Ituri province of Congo, there was a lot of suffering and many people did not have food. “And so if the opportunity presented itself, well, I was told that I could go there, show the card and get stuff. So I went there… If I had resources at the time, if I had means to live on, I wouldn’t have done that.”
The witness was questioned about his brother and his friend whose identity he said he had assumed when he presented himself to the demobilization office. It was not possible to establish whether the two had served in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), the group which prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) allege was led by Mr. Lubanga.
Mr. Lubanga is on trial over the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003. His defense is today expected to introduce a new witness.