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Judge Defends Closed Sessions

Most of Tuesday’s proceedings were closed to the public as Thomas Lubanga’s defense team cross-examined last week’s witness, a former officer in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia.

The closings prompted Judge Adrian Fulford to apologize for what he said might be considered “extremely irritating” moves by the court for public observers of the trial.

The judge defended the frequent closed sessions, however, because of the court’s need to protect witnesses and their families.

“This court has very important protective responsibilities for witnesses who appear before us,” Fulford said.

If the court thinks the witness or family could be harmed as a result of his or her identity being revealed, the judge said, the identity of such a witness would be protected.

Any lack of such witness protection “could be catastrophic for individuals involved.”

In the limited public sessions, meanwhile, the former UPC officer denied that he had received orders to demobilize child soldiers.

“I wasn’t aware of this (order to demobilize),” he said in reply to defense attorney Jean-Marie Biju-Duval’s question. The defense also questioned the witness on the ethnic makeup of UPC commanders and the ages of the child soldiers who served in UPC, but the witness responded in closed session.

Prior to the testimony, the court addressed procedural matters when Fulford ordered defense attorneys to be given better access to court offices and equipment in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bunia.

The order followed complaints by Lubanga’s lawyers that they were not getting adequate access to the ICC office there.

“There has been something of an unhappy history in relation to the timing of the availability to (the defense) of certain pieces of equipment and facilities,” said Judge Fulford.

He asked Lubanga’s lawyer Catherine Mabille to provide details of what is available and unavailable, and discuss it further with the court if the problem is not solved.

Meanwhile, the defense also complained that details of victims participating in the trial whose anonymity was lifted last week, had not been fully communicated to them.

Judge Fulford directed representatives of the victims to meet with the Victims Participation and Reparations Section to make the disclosures complete.