Arusha, June 13, 2012 (FH) - At the beginning of the sentencing hearing before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Thomas Lubanga Wednesday called two witnesses, one claiming that he was hosting nine children and a woman, all of them homeless at his “presidential palace” during the war in the East of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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The witness told the judges that the children and the woman in question had been victims of attacks in Ituri between 2002 and 2003, becoming homeless after loosing their relatives.

The witness, who said she was working as protocol officer in “the presidency” service for Lubanga within such period, estimated that the children were between 5 and 12 years old. She alleged that none of them was involved in carrying out duties of soldiers.

Lubanga has been found guilty of war crimes for conscripting and using child soldiers to fight in Ituri (Eastern DRC) from September 1, 2002 to August 13, 2003.

The witness further claimed that Lubanga was involved in initiatives to bring peace in Ituri and all ethnic groups, whether Hema or Lendu, were involve in the peace process and visited his presidency office without any discrimination.

“They were received without any discrimination. We welcomed anyone who wished to meet the president. His first concern was to meet those notable (local leaders). They tried to find strategies to restore calm whenever there was a problem,” she said.

On March 14, 2012, a Trial Chamber found that Lubanga had participated in a "common plan to build an army" and control Ituri politically and militarily.

Such plan, the three judges concluded, led to the conscription of children under 15 into the troops of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and its armed wing the Forces Patriotiques de libération du Congo (FPLC). Lubanga was president of the UPC at the time.

Lubanga was arrested in Kinshasa in 2005 and transferred to the ICC in The Hague in March 2006. His trial began on January 26, 2009.