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DRC fighters sent to Hague as war crimes witnesses ‎

media Thomas Lubanga, leader of Congo's UPC rebel group talks to villagers in … Reuters

Four former fighters from the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrived in The Hague to testify in the trials of militia leaders Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga. The two warlords face charges of war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

The DRC’s Justice Minister, Emmanuel Luzolo Bambi, says the four witnesses left Kinshasa on Sunday. He would not name the men, but confirmed they are facing charges in the country, where they were detained in prison.

Bambi said the witnesses would be in The Hague for no more than a month and a half, before returning to Kinshasa.

They are due to testify in the trials of both Lubanga and Katanga, in cases that relate to crimes committed during the 2002-2003 conflict in Ituri province, in the east of DRC.

Lubanga is accused of conscripting child soldiers, as the alleged leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots armed group.

Katanga is being tried with another Congolese warlord, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, on several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They allegedly led rebels that fought against Lubanga’s forces.

Lawyers for Katanga began presenting the defence case last week. They plan to call 22 witnesses in total, starting with Katanga’s younger brother.

Lubanga’s trial is set to resume shortly – after judges rejected the defence’s request to drop the case.

Defence lawyers argued the trial was unfair, because some witnesses for the prosecution said they’d been bribed to lie on the stand.

But judges ruled that the rest of the prosecution’s case stands.

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