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Lubanga Defense: Documents Disprove Identities Of Child Soldiers

Thomas Lubanga’s defense has today presented to court various documents that it claimed showed that at least seven prosecution witnesses, who told court that they were former child soldiers, lied about their identities or the schools they attended. 

The documents presented included several records from schools in Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They included class lists, primary school leaving certificate records, annual results sheets, and school registers where the names, ages, dates of birth, and names of parents of pupils are recorded.

Defense lawyer Marc Desalliers named seven former prosecution witnesses who identified themselves as former child soldiers, and two others who told court they were abducted and conscripted into the rebel militia while aged 15 and 17 years respectively, among those who will be shown to have lied to court. 

Etienne Bitanihira Kama-Kama, a school inspector in Bunia town in the DRC, today told judges that he obtained the documents that the defense was tendering to court. He said Mr. Lubanga’s lawyers asked him for assistance to get the school records, and he in turn requested the principals of those schools to allow him to take the documents to The Hague to be used at the trial. 

Mr. Lubanga’s defense claimed at the start of their case last January that they would prove to court that intermediaries of the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution investigators encouraged witnesses to lie about the schools they attended. The defense claimed then that it had done “systematic verifications by visiting the schools where the alleged child soldiers said they had been educated”. 

Accordingly, the defense declared in January that it would demonstrate that all the individuals who were presented as child soldiers, as well as their parents in some cases, deliberately lied to the court. Lead defense attorney Catherine Mabille said they intended to show that six of these witnesses were never child soldiers, the seventh lied about his age and the conditions in which he enrolled, and the eighth witness never belonged to the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).

Mr. Lubanga faces the war crimes of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in armed conflict in the DRC during 2002 and 2003. Prosecutors at the ICC allege that Mr. Lubanga was the head of the UPC, which used child soldiers.

Presiding judge Adrian Fulford today asked the prosecution to carefully assess the documents before the start of the cross-examination of Mr. Kama-Kama next Monday. “It is not going to be helpful to us to have a rather general undifferentiated suggestion that there may be forgeries somewhere. If it is going to be alleged that a document is not what it purports to be, then that needs to be explored properly and not left in a general and vague sense,” said the judge.

The trial resumes on Monday, May 31, 2010, with the cross-examination of Mr. Kama-Kama.