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Lubanga Trial: New Witness Testifies In Camera

The defense for war crimes accused Thomas Lubanga today called a new witness, but none of his evidence was heard in open court. After taking the oath, the witness went on to give his evidence in camera.

The witness, whose name was not given in public, becomes the third to be called by Mr. Lubanga’s defense since the trial restarted last Wednesday, April 28. The trial halted for the spring judicial break at the start of April.  Though proceedings were set to resume on April 21, flight disruptions following a volcanic ash cloud in European airspace resulted in a delay.

The witness introduced today had protective measures including voice and face distortion as he took the oath. These measures are intended to protect witnesses against possible reprisals if it is known that they have given evidence at the trial.

The two witnesses called by the defense last week said they were former fighters in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) – the group which prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) allege was headed by Mr. Lubanga. According to the prosecutors, as the commander-in-chief of the UPC and its armed militia, Mr. Lubanga allegedly recruited, trained and used children in inter-ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during 2002 and 2003.

According to the defense, the testimony of both witnesses heard last week was intended to discredit evidence given by one of three participating victims who testified last January. Defense attorneys indicated last week that among others, those two witnesses would testify that the victim lied to the court about his identity. Both witnesses testified via video link from Bunia in Congo, and their faces were visible on screens in court at The Hague.

Earlier in today’s proceedings, the prosecution continued to examine Jean Paul Bejijjo Chonga, the defense witness who started testifying last Friday. Mr. Chonga told court that he was born in May 1987, and that he dropped out of school in 2001 and volunteered to join the UPC. 

He said he was prompted to join the militia group because the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) – a local rival to the UPC – were raping young girls and women and carrying out killings in his home area. Prosecuting attorney Olivia Struyven today questioned Mr. Chonga about the schools he attended and his experience with the UPC.

The trial will tomorrow continue to hear evidence from defense witnesses.