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Can video help bring a warlord to justice?

As readers of this blog are well aware, the trial of Thomas Lubanga Diylo is the first trial at the ICC, what you may not know is that it is also the first time that video has played an integral role in bringing a warlord to the court. Though there is debate about whether the charges against Mr. Lubanga are the “most heinous crimes which he may have committed,” video is illuminating the charges of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen, as was evidenced by Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s opening statement on Monday.

The widespread recruitment and use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is without parallel in Africa. In 2003, AJEDI-Ka, an innovative NGO that identifies, demobilizes and reintegrates child soldiers, as well as advocating for justice in their cause in the Eastern DRC, partnered with WITNESS to harness the power of video to help amplify its work. My colleague, Bukeni Waruzi, then AJEDI-Ka’s Executive Director, spearheaded the use of video to document issues affecting child soldiers, their families and communities (Bukeni is now the program coordinator for Africa and the Middle East at WITNESS).

AJEDI-Ka produced two videos with WITNESS. The first, “On the Frontlines” was screened for over 30,000 villagers in South Kivu province to dissuade the practice of voluntary recruitment of children into armed groups there. “A Duty to Protect” was incorporated into an international campaign for the ICC to engage with and prioritize the Lubanga case. This campaign resulted in a number of screenings of the film at The Hague before the ICC announced its intention to investigate the issue.  Now the ICC has even arranged for A Duty to Protect to be screened nationally in the DRC during the first weeks of the trial.

Bukeni was in The Hague for the first week of the trial as an NGO observer. While there, he did a daily vlog – sharing his personal reflections on the trial proceedings. We also produced a short series of interviews with Bukeni that provide insight into how he first got involved in demobilizing and rehabilitating child soldiers in eastern DRC. All of these videos and more can be found here:

As International Law Observer has been documenting, the first week of the trial has been a tumultuous one and with a projected 6-9 month timeline there are bound to be more surprises. We at WITNESS are interested not just in the outcome of the trial, but how video may play a role throughout. We invite all readers to take a look at the content that Bukeni and colleagues have put together over time on the Hub, our global channel for human rights media – at What are your impressions about the use of video in this trial? Will it make a difference? And, do you know of other justice initiatives in the international realm where video is playing a role? We’d love to hear from you and learn from you.

(Special thanks to my colleague Chris Michael who helped prepare this post and to all my colleagues who helped produce the video content we’ve been able to share with everyone this week, espcially Bukeni Waruzi and Priscila Neri.)

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