Global Policy Forum

Congo Warlord Not Guilty, Witnesses Lied - Defense


Svebor Kranjc and Aaron Gray-Block

January 27, 2010

Accused Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga played no active role in recruiting children as soldiers, and some witnesses at his trial have lied, a defence lawyer told the International Criminal Court (ICC) Wednesday.

Lubanga, an ethnic Hema, is accused of enlisting and conscripting children under 15 to his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) to kill rival Lendus in a 1998-2003 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is rich in gold, diamonds and timber.

He pleaded not guilty when his trial in The Hague started in January last year, describing himself as a politician.

"Thomas 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," lawyer Catherine Mabille said as she opened the defence's case.

She added that evidence against Lubanga has been fabricated.

"We intend to demonstrate that all the individuals who were presented as child soldiers, as well as their parents in some cases, deliberately lied before this court."

Lubanga's trial resumed on January 7, six months after the prosecution ended its case. In December an appeals ruling reversed a decision that could have allowed charges of sexual slavery and cruel and inhumane treatment to be added to the indictment.

The prosecution presented 28 witnesses, including three experts, and the defence will now present its case based on the original charges of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers.


The first child soldier called as a witness last year have his testimony under the glare of Lubanga, saying he had been told what to say by a humanitarian aid group.

But the boy reappeared two weeks later, saying he was aged about 11 when forced into the UPC, adding he was trained to use weapons and participated in several battles.

Child soldiers called by the prosecution described how they were forced to kill and were beaten or threatened, while girls were raped and forced to have abortions. Various witnesses have also said Lubanga was the UPC military commander.

But Mabille said there was evidence to suggest that Lubanga tried to demobilise minors from the ranks of the UPC.

Two other Congolese warlords are on also trial at the ICC.

Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo both pleaded not guilty in November on charges they directed a February 2003 attack on a village in which about 200 people were killed.


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