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Witness Protection, Support Needed in Lubanga Trial

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Witness Protection, Support Needed in Lubanga Trial

Posted by Maggie Fick on February 20, 2009

Witness Protection, Support Needed in Lubanga Trial

With all of the recent news and rumors about the looming International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, you may have missed developments in the landmark International Criminal Court trial of Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga. As you might have read, the trial got off to a very rocky start when the first witness recanted his testimony after appearing shaken by the experience of testifying behind a screen while Lubanga glared at him from several feet away.

During the second week of the trial, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters that judges were considering new measures to shield the former child soldiers turned witnesses in the Lubanga trial from their former rebel boss and persecutor:

These children are from Ituri [a remote province of eastern Congo]. They travelled to The Hague, in winter, to this huge court with three white judges.

The Court’s attention to the sensitivities of these witnesses, and to the broader issue of witness protection, is essential. Given that another important arrest warrant will likely be issued in the coming days, the Court needs to address the crucial issue of witness protection immediately.