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Prosecutors Cross-Examine Former UPC Fighter

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today cross-examined a defense witness in the Thomas Lubanga trial about three photographs which showed alleged former leaders of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), the group Lubanga is said to have led.

The prosecution’s Olivia Struyven showed the photographs to the unnamed witness, and asked him to identify the people in them. In two of the photographs, the witness who has said he was a member of the UPC identified Thomas Lubanga, as well as Bosco Ntaganda and Floribert Kisembo.

According to the prosecution, Ntaganda was the deputy chief of staff of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), an armed group that used child soldiers during 2002 and 2003. Although the ICC unveiled an arrest warrant for Ntaganda in April 2008, he remains at large in the DRC. The ICC prosecutors say Lubanga was the commander-in-chief of the FPLC.

Kisembo, the other person identified by the witness, is said to have been the chief of staff of the FPLC. The witness identified other former UPC leaders such as Rafiki Saba, whom the prosecution says was the chief of security in UPC.

Struyven asked the witness whether he knew when the pictures were taken, and he replied that he did not. He also said he did not know where the photographs were taken from, but added, “It seems like the office in Mandro [village] that was burned up”. He did not elaborate what the office was and who had set it on fire.

The witness was also questioned about the uniforms most of the people in the picture were wearing, and he said they were Ugandan military uniforms. The person he identified as Thomas Lubanga was not wearing military fatigues. Ugandan soldiers who were in Congo between 1997 and 2003 at some stage trained and armed the UPC’s fighters.

Because today’s witness gave most of his testimony in closed session, it was not known what the intent of showing him the pictures was. Lubanga is facing the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 into the FPLC and using them to participate effectively in armed conflict. He has denied the charges.

At the opening of his defense case on January 27, 2010, his lead counsel Catherine Mabille said they would produce witnesses to prove that “Lubanga the political leader played no active role in the creation of the UPC military forces and in no way did he take part deliberately in a common plan to recruit minors.”

But the prosecution contends that Lubanga was in charge of the FPLC and that he visited and inspected FPLC military training camps, oversaw the conduct of military affairs and appointed the senior ranks within the FPLC, secured financing for the UPC/FPLC and negotiated the provision of their weapons and other military equipment.

A new witness – the seventh called by the defense – is expected to start giving evidence on Friday.