Intermediary Denies Bribing Witness
An intermediary of the prosecution office at the International Criminal Court, ICC, last week denied that he bribed an individual to falsely claim to investigators that he had served as a child soldier in the group Thomas Lubanga allegedly commanded.
During his five days of testimony, beginning on November 8, Intermediary 316 also claimed that he did not receive any irregular payments from the court while he worked for the Office of The prosecutor, OTP, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Testifying with face and voice distortion, he rejected allegations that he offered money and then coached the individual who went on to testify for the prosecution.
The individual in question, referred to as Witness 15, testified briefly in June 2009 as a prosecution witness, but his testimony was brought to an abrupt end when he stated that the intermediary had told him to tell lies.
Last March, the witness was called back by the court to testify afresh.
Last week, prosecuting lawyer Manoj Sachdeva read to Intermediary 316 excerpts from the March testimony by Witness 15.
“When I was asked questions about a battle, which had occurred in a particular village, I was supposed to give the names of certain people who were in the army in no particular order. We were getting ready in this fashion,” read the testimony from the witness about allegedly being coached by the intermediary.
“This is false,” the intermediary replied. “I did not give him any names, and I did not make any comments concerning this.”
In his March testimony, Witness 15 stated that he had agreed to tell lies to investigators because Intermediary 316 was spending money on him.
“At the time he had money,” the witness had stated in March. “He would buy me drinks and he encouraged me to take action. He would give me a bit of money and I agreed to lie.”
The intermediary said last week those claims were false. He also denied that he told the witness to claim to investigators that he knew children who were conscripted into the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC – the group prosecutors allege Lubanga headed – and that he knew girl child soldiers who conceived while they were fighters with the group.
Lubanga is on trial at the ICC over recruitment, enlistment, and use of child soldiers in DRC.
The intermediary gave most of his testimony in closed session, so it was not clear how he responded to other claims that Witness 15 made against him.
Lubanga’s defence team is preparing an application asking judges to dismiss the case on the grounds of abuse of process related to the alleged coaching of witnesses by intermediaries of the court’s prosecution office.
Mabille says this application will be lodged around December 12. All the witnesses scheduled to give evidence in the trial are expected to have completed testifying by the end of this month.
In his 2005 statement, Witness 15 claimed that there were children, some as young as 12 years old, in the military training camp run by the UPC at Mandro village and at the UPC headquarters in Bunia town.
He also claimed that while with the UPC, he often saw top military men in the UPC’s armed militia when they routinely visited the UPC headquarters to meet Lubanga.
However, when he took the witness stand in March 2010, he contradicted his 2005 statement by claiming that he never served in the UPC militia. He also stated that his earlier claims that he saw military commanders Bosco Ntaganda and Floribert Kisembo at the UPC headquarters were false too.
In his 2005 statement, the witness described his alleged abduction by UPC fighters, the training he purportedly underwent at Mandro, and punishments meted out to errant trainees. He told investigators about an incident in which some soldiers were executed after being tied to a tree.
When the witness declared in court last March that all these lies were the handiwork of Intermediary 316, judges ordered the immediate disclosure of his identity. The identities of two other intermediaries have also since been disclosed to the defence. Judges subsequently ordered two intermediaries and two investigators they worked with to testify about the role they played in the alleged corruption of evidence.
Prosecutors are due to call back the first witness, who testified for them and told the court that he was a former child soldier in the UPC.
According to prosecutors, Witness 38 was introduced to the OTP by Intermediary 316, and would testify as a rebuttal witness to affirm that this intermediary never asked him to lie to court.
Meanwhile, defence lawyers questioned the intermediary about the various payments he received from the ICC.
Defence lawyer Marc Desalliers asked the intermediary whether he received a salary before November 2005, when he got a contract from the court.
The intermediary responded that he was only reimbursed for his expenses while doing work for investigators of the OTP.
“During the informal stage of your dealings with the OTP between the month of April 2005 and beginning of your contract in November 2005, did you receive any salary?” Desalliers asked again.
“I would say no, there was no salary,” the witness replied. “There was reimbursement for expenses incurred. However, as things developed the OTP paid for my needs in terms of salary because I had to give enough time to working in the field.”
He said before he got a contract with the ICC’s prosecution office, his payment was based on the number of days he worked.
The intermediary clarified that, although there were payment vouchers before he got the contract, which indicated that he had a salary, in fact he only got a daily subsistence allowance for the days he worked.
The trial is continuing this week with the evidence of a new witness
IWPR's weekly updates of the Thomas Lubanga trial are produced in cooperation with the Open Society Justice Initiative of the Open Society Institute, OSI. Daily coverage of the trial can be found at http://www.lubangatrial.org/.