A former child soldier became the first witness in Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga's trial, and the first ever before judges of the International Criminal Court. Lubanga faces charges of enlisting hundreds of children in DR Congo's war.
AFP - A former child soldier testified at a war crimes trial here Wednesday how he was recruited into a militia led by former DR Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga as he was going home from school.
"I was very young and so I cannot remember the date," the boy told the judges of the International Criminal Court where Lubanga is on trial for recruiting hundreds of children to fight in DR Congo's civil war.
"Certain school pupils were recruited and taken away. I was one of those taken to the camps. It happened when we were returning home ... I was leaving school."
The boy gave evidence from behind a screen to protect him from public view, although Lubanga, as well as the judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers can see him.
His voice and face have been electronically distorted on screens in the public gallery and his name withheld for his own protection.
The boy is the first witness to testify in Lubanga's trial, the first ever before the ICC.
Prosecutors said at Monday's opening of the trial that Lubanga's militia had been "an army of children".
The 48-year-old militiaman is accused of recruiting hundreds of children under the age of 15 to fight for his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) during the five-year civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which ended in 2003.
Humanitarian groups say inter-ethnic fighting and violence involving militia groups in the eastern Ituri region -- centred on control over one of the world's most lucrative gold-mining territories -- has claimed some 60,000 lives since 1999 and created hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Date created : 2009-01-28