I just got off the phone with my colleague Bukeni Waruzi who is at The Hague to get his view on the recent, and very confusing, set of events at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Watch Bukeni's vlog for more of his impressions on today's events...
Prosecutors in the ICC's trial against warlord Thomas Lubanga suffered a set-back yesterday as the first witness they called, a former child soldier in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reversed his testimony. Initially, the witness had said Lubanga's militia troops had seized him while returning from school, but hours later he told the court that account was not true, and that he had been coached to provide answers.
The boy's testimony was intended to buttress the opening statement from the prosecutor and establish that Lubanga conscripted, trained, and used young boys on the frontlines in the Ituri region of the DRC in 2002 and 2003. Though there are 34 scheduled witnesses, including other former child soldiers, the witness' reversal of his statement was a blow to the prosecution and reverberated as such in the international
media and blogosphere.
Bukeni, who has extensive experience and expertise rehabilitating and demobilizing child soldiers in the DRC, noted some of the common speculations from trial observers, including that the boy may have been concerned that his testimony would incriminate him and yield charges. However, Canada's Globe and Mail reports that "prosecutor Manoj Sachdeva told Judge Fulford that is extremely unlikely."
Additionally, the Globe and Mail reported that "presiding judge Adrian Fulford suggested the young witness may have been shaken by the crowd in the courtroom". Bukeni also noted this could have been a major factor, particularly because he believes this was the first time the child had been outside of the Congo and he may have been shaken by a variety of factors, including the high number of lawyers in the trial chamber, an overwhelming majority of whom were white. As I reported earlier, security measures were put in place to help protect the witness, including voice alteration and being shielded from the courtroom observers; however, all of the attorneys, judges and Lubanga himself could see him.
These developments spark a host of questions that we hope to elaborate on through interviews with Bukeni and guest bloggers. In particular, we hope to learn more about the selection and preparation process for the witness and if the witness protection measures put in place were adequate. Moreover, we are going to search out some expert opinion on how witnesses' testimony may or may not incriminate them, and how that is communicated before and during the trial.
For now, please watch Bukeni's latest vlog and see the latest coverage - and don't forget to add your comments and questions below.