On Monday this week the historic and long-awaited first trial of the International Criminal Court began in the Hague. In the dock is Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese warlord accused of conscripting children under the age of 15 – some as young as seven – as soldiers in the civil war. It is estimated that more than 30,000 child soldiers have been used since 1996 when the first war broke out in Uvira, South Kivu province, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
My colleague Bukeni Waruzi, who is attending and reporting from the trail, has been working on this issue for over a decade, as an activist in the DRC and now as a Program Coordinator at WITNESS. In a series of vlogs and interviews, Bukeni addresses specifically the use of video within the context of the trial. He reported that Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo used video three times during his opening statements:
“The videos were used as direct evidence to prove that the children were under 15 years old, that Lubanga’s deputy, Bosco Ntaganda, who now works with Laurent Nkunda was with Lubanga in some events during the course of the years 2002 and 2003, that some of these children were used as Lubanga’s body guards. He declared that the girls in the Lubanga armed group, FLPC, were use as sexual slaves.”
ICC Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo opening statements at the trial of Thomas Lubanga, January 26, 2009 (courtesy ICJ)
It remains to be seen to what extent video will be used as evidence – direct and indirect – in the trial. The rules of evidence in the various international jurisdictions including the regional bodies are variable; video is still relatively new as a form of documentation. But this is something we will be watching closely.