A man known as Witness 15 who was to testify Tuesday against Thomas Lubanga told judges that he had given a false name and statement to investigators.
“Shortly after [Witness 15] was called to give evidence, he indicated that he provided the [Office of the Prosecutor (OTP)] with a false name and that the statement he provided was, in important respects, inaccurate,” said presiding Judge Adrian Fulford.
Although the witness’s confession came during closed session, Judge Fulford read sections of the session transcript aloud in open court, saying he wanted the public to know what had occurred.
“So your statement to the OTP is substantially inaccurate?” Fulford read, quoting himself from the transcript.
“That’s the case,” the witness had responded. “It’s a false statement.”
Fulford said a new statement would be obtained from the witness “setting out what he says is the truth.”
A person from the prosecutor’s office who is not working on the Lubanga case would take the statement outside of the courtroom, Fulford said.
Prosecutor Nicole Samson suggested that the witness’s new statement be recorded for audio and videotaped. A member of the defense team would be also be present, she said, but had agreed not ask any questions.
The court noted that it could not predict the witness’s new statement. “We have no idea what [the] result will be,” Fulford said. “But one can envisage a result where the defense might want to call this witness itself.”
Before adjourning for the day, Fulford said that the witness should be counseled on the issue of self-incrimination and given access to a lawyer.
“Advice given to the witness…should include a warning against giving false testimony,” he added.
It is not the first time that a witness in the Lubanga trial has recanted a previous statement in court.
On January 28, just two days after the trial began, the prosecution’s first witness told Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that he had lied during his testimony and had been coached on what to say.
That witness, a former child soldier known as Dieumerci, eventually returned to the court to speak about his experience as a child soldier in Lubanga’s militia.
His initial claims of fabrication were attributed to fears of seeing Lubanga in court and confusion about whether or not he could be prosecuted in the DRC upon his return there.
“A lot of things went through my mind [that day],” Dieumerci told the court on February 10. “I got angry and I wasn’t able [to testify].”