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Lubanga Defense Dwells On ‘Stolen Identities’ of Former UPC Soldiers

The defense for Congolese war crimes accused, Thomas Lubanga, has today continued to dwell on the purported false identity of an individual who is participating in the trial under the dual status of a victim and a witness.

In January this year, a witness appeared in court claiming to be Dieudonné Tonyfwa Urochi, allegedly a former fighter in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia group.  Last Thursday, another witness took the stand and told the court that his name was in fact Dieudonné Tonyfwa Urochi. He recounted how he was abducted by UPC soldiers and conscripted into the group where he went on to serve as a child soldier.

Today, a new defense witness who testified without protective measures claimed to be the father of the witness who appeared last Thursday.  Today’s witness was shown a picture of the defense witness who testified last week, identified the person in the photo as his oldest son, whose name was Dieudonné Tonyfwa Urochi. Today’s witness went on to explain the meaning of those names and why he gave them to his son.

According to the defense, a victim participating in the trial claimed to court that he was Dieudonné Tonyfwa Urochi when he had testified in January and that he had fought with the UPC. Judges granted the victim’s lawyer permission to question these three defense witnesses, because they were trying to discredit the testimony of the participating victim.

Joseph Keta, the lawyer for the victim in question, showed today’s witness a picture – presumably of the person who testified in January.

“If I said to you that this is Dieudonné Tonyfwa Urochi, what would be your reaction?” asked Mr. Keta.

“It’s false,” replied the witness.

Asked by Mr. Keta whether he had any documents to show that he was the father of a person with those names, the witness replied that he had some documents which could attest to that fact – but he had left them behind in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mr. Keta reserved most of his questioning for closed session because – he said – his questions related to protected individuals.

During his testimony last week, the witness claiming to be Dieudonné Tonyfwa Urochi was questioned by both Mr. Keta and prosecuting attorneys about the schools he attended, in what years he was in particular classes, as well as the circumstances under which he became a member of the UPC. He was also questioned at length about an unnamed person who attended the same school as him.

The testimony of the three defense witnesses who testified about the alleged identity theft plays into the central thesis which Mr. Lubanga’s lawyers have been trying to prove, namely that intermediaries of ICC prosecution investigators coached witnesses and fabricated evidence.

Mr. Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC), is on trial over the alleged recruitment, conscription, and use of children under the age of 15 years in armed conflict during 2002 and 2003. He has denied the charges.