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Former child soldier retracts accusations against Lubanga

Video by Arnaud ZAJTMAN , Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Latest update : 2009-01-29

Having testified that he was recruited as a child soldier, the first witness at the ICC retracts evidence.Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese militia warlord, is on trial for recruiting hundreds of children to fight in the DR Congo's civil war.

AFP - The first witness at the inaugural war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court retracted his testimony on Wednesday, prompting a probe into witness protection.

Having testified in the morning that he was recruited as a youngster by a Congolese militia led by the accused Thomas Lubanga and taken to a training camp, the witness later told the court his evidence had been incorrect.

This prompted prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to request a delay of the trial at The Hague for an investigation into "concerns the witness has about protective measures ... what happens after he gives his testimony and returns home".

"We are convinced it has an effect on the testimony the witness is giving now," she told the three judges presiding over Lubanga's trial on charges of recruiting hundreds of children under 15 to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Judge Adrian Fulford granted the postponement to give the prosecution time "to find out whether something has happened that could destabilise ... the witness in such a way that he would deviate from the evidence."

Until his change of mind, the witness had been giving evidence in Swahili 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.

Lubanga stared intently at the witness, who initially told the court that "Thomas Lubanga's soldiers" had recruited him one day as he was walking home from school.

Date created : 2009-01-29