Lubanga war crimes trial resumes after child soldier witness recants testimony

[JURIST] The trial of former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; JURIST news archive] resumed Thursday after the first witness to testify withdrew his testimony Wednesday, causing the inaugural war crimes trial of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to adjourn temporarily to assess witness safety. The witness, who remains unidentified, initially testified that he was recruited by Lubanga's soldiers to serve in his militia as a young boy. After a break in the hearing, the witness recanted his earlier testimony [BBC report], saying that a non-governmental organization had told him what to say. ICC Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official profile] requested and obtained a delay in the trial because of concerns that the witness may fear for his own safety during the trial and after he returns home. Judge Adrian Fulford resumed the trial [AFP report] Thursday, announcing that an investigation into any threats against the first witness would be conducted by Monday. Fulford also ordered both the prosecution and the defense to submit statements by Friday on whether witnesses face a risk of self-incrimination and criminal charges upon their return to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [official website, in French].

Once the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], Lubanga is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report] in his militia, which is believed to have committed large-scale human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. Earlier this week, Lubanga pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006. The long-delayed trial [JURIST report] is the ICC's first since its creation in 2002.



 

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