Contact
Joshua Rozenberg
c/o Noel Gay
19 Denmark Street
London WC2H 8NA

joshua@rozenberg.net

 

 

     

Archives
Recent Entries


 

January 26, 2009

Lubanga pleads not guilty

The first defendant to stand trial before the International Criminal Court pleaded not guilty this morning to recruiting child soldiers and sending them to “kill, pillage and rape”.

Wearing a dark suit and red tie, Thomas Lubanga showed no emotion as his French lawyer, Catherine Mabille, said he denied using children under 15 as soldiers in the armed wing of his Union of Congolese Patriots political party in 2002-03.

The children still suffer the consequences of Lubanga’s crimes,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor, told panel of three judges in The Hague. “They cannot forget what they suffered, what they saw, what they did.”

The case, which has been beset by difficulties in the past, opened on time. Sir Adrian Fulford, the British judge who is presiding over the trial, handled the proceedings smoothly even though some of the counsel seemed unfamiliar with the conventions that enable judges in England to know in advance who will address the court.

A feed of the trial, in English, is available here. This worked well during the morning. The video-stream, although low resolution, is adequate — except perhaps for maps, documents, and video evidence shown to the court. The audio feed — which in many ways is more important — is excellent. The proceedings are transmitted with a half-hour delay, allowing the court a measure of control over what may be broadcast.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo showed the judges a video recording of Lubanga at a training camp. The footage featured young men and children, some dressed in military fatigues, others in T-shirts and shorts. Another video showed a pickup full of heavily armed bodyguards, including at least two who appeared to be children, following Lubanga’s vehicle.

The prosecutor said children were abducted on the way to school or from sports fields. They were beaten and killed during training. Young girls were taken as “wives” by commanders.

“As soon as the girls’ breasts started to grow, Thomas Lubanga’s commanders could select them as their wives,” he said. “‘Wives’ is the wrong word. They were sexual slaves.”

Nine witnesses will be former child soldiers who will recount the horror of their military service, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said.

“They will come to confront past crimes and present prejudices, in particular within their communities,” he said. “It takes courage.”

This is the first international prosecution to feature the participation of victims. The first of a team of lawyers for 93 victims addressed the court before lunch.

Posted at January 26, 2009 11:36 AM