Lubanga Defence Continue to Focus on Intermediaries
The trial of alleged Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga resumed at the International Criminal Court, ICC, last week, with the role played by intermediaries of the court’s prosecution office still the focus of defence questioning.
The trial had been suspended in July, after judges ruled that the prosecutor had failed to follow proper procedures in refusing to disclose the identity of a key witness to the defence team.
But on October 8, the appeals chamber ruled that the trial could continue, saying that judges had been wrong to stay proceedings without first imposing sanctions to force the prosecution to comply.
Early in the week, a field liaison officer with the Office of The Prosecutor, OTP, was questioned by defence lawyers about payments made to intermediaries who contacted former child soldiers that testified against Lubanga.
In particular, lead defence lawyer Catherine Mabille asked the witness, who testified with voice and face distortion, about payments allegedly made to an intermediary known simply as Mr X.
The witness said the money he gave Mr X was to cater for the transportation of former child soldiers who were brought to the field liaison officer for screening. He said all payments to the intermediary were authorised by OTP investigators or supervisors based at The Hague.
Mabille also asked about a complaint that Mr X subsequently made about the alleged misconduct of OTP investigators.
“Did someone from MONUC [the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, since renamed MONUSCO] call you and tell you that Mr X had made a complaint about the behaviour of the ICC with regard to him?” she asked.
“We had heard that Mr X had approached MONUC in order to complain,” the witness replied. “Mr X had made complaints… about the way the ICC was operating and in particular what he considered certain dysfunctions.” The witness, who testified via video link, gave details of this complaint in closed session.
In response to Mabille’s question, the witness said he was not aware of any financial claims by intermediaries being considered unjustified by the OTP.
However, he stated that at some point his supervisors instructed him not to deal with Mr X because he was no longer an intermediary.
Similar instructions were given about another intermediary who was referred to in court as Mr Z. The witness did not say in open court why these individuals ceased being intermediaries.
The witness testified that he screened several children who had served as soldiers with the militia group the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC, in a bid to find those who fitted the profile the OTP was looking for. The UPC is the group that prosecutors allege Lubanga headed.
While referring to several documents, including screening notes and email exchanges between the liaison officer and his OTP supervisors, Mabille asked the witness why several of the children he had been asked to screen eventually got left out.
She also asked about discrepancies between lists of children which Mr X had and those prosecution investigators provided to the witness.
“Sometimes he [Mr X] would have to go to the field to look for one child or another and then he would call to tell me that such and such a child is not available, or cannot be found,” the witness replied.
At one time, all 16 children who were due to be screened could not be traced, the witness added.
While the witness affirmed that he had screened some particular children that Mabille asked about, all subsequent examination was in closed session.
It was therefore not possible to know what the interest of the defence was in these particular individuals.
Hearings had been scheduled for every day last week, but some administrative glitches forced presiding judge Adrian Fulford to end the week’s testimony on Tuesday.
One of the intermediaries – known as intermediary 321 - was expected to give evidence last week via video link from the DRC. But the court heard that, due to a miscommunication, he had travelled to The Hague instead.
This witness had previously testified in July, just before judges ordered a halt to the trial.
Prosecuting attorney Manoj Sachdeva said intermediary 321 would testify this week, after the witness indicated he needed five days to familiarise himself with the testimony he gave last July as well the interviews he did with prosecutors since last October.
Judge Fulford said that none of the other witnesses were ready to testify last week.
One of the witnesses had been unable to travel to The Hague because his passport was not ready, the judge said.
At the bidding of judges, the OTP will also produce at least one other intermediary and two of its investigators who worked on gathering evidence against Lubanga. One of the investigators will testify next via video link.
Lubanga’s trial began in January last year, although he has been in ICC detention since March 2006. He is accused of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in armed conflict during 2002 and 2003 when he allegedly headed the UPC and its armed militia.
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/.