Witnesses lied in Congo militiaman's trial: defence

26th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Nine witnesses presented by prosecutors as former child soldiers have lied to the world crimes court during the trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, his defence said Friday.

In the first trial before the International Criminal Court, Lubanga, 50, is accused of using children under the age of 15 to fight for his militia during the Democratic Republic of Congo's five-year civil war, which ended in 2003.

"Certain intermediaries of the prosecutor's office prepared the witnesses to tell stories before the court," said Catherine Mabille, Lubanga's lead counsel adding "they were asked to lie".

"School records show (...) beyond doubt that these children were on school benches when they were claimed to have been at the worst atrocities," she told judges, adding there were "irreconcilable contradictions" in their testimonies.

Prosecutors as well as victims' representatives and Lubanga's defence are making their final statements Thursday and Friday before a three-panel bench of ICC retires to mull a judgment as the case draws to an end.

The war crimes trial of the alleged founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and chief commander of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) opened on January 26, 2009.

Lubanga's trial was suspended on July 8 last year for three months after the prosecutor's refusal to disclose to Lubanga's defence team the name of an "intermediary" used by prosecution investigators to find witnesses to Lubanga's alleged crimes.

The militia leader's defence team claimed that false testimonies were "fabricated" with the help of intermediaries and in collaboration with the prosecutor's office.

The defence then tried in vain to stay proceedings.

© 2011 AFP

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