As the much-anticipated start of the Lubanga defence case draws nearer, his team has expressed concern that some of their witnesses might not be available to testify when required, as difficulties in obtaining passports could stop them from travelling to The Hague on time.
“Our concern is that we have drawn a list of witnesses in the order of appearance that is important with regard to the manner of introducing our evidence,” Thomas Lubanga’s chief counsel Catherine Mabille told court on Friday. She said the list of when their witnesses would be available for testimony had been amended “without us being able to be involved”. The changes were due to difficulties in obtaining passports for witnesses travelling to the ICC, she said.
Mabille said the defense needed to be assured that the order of appearance for their first five witnesses should be upheld. Judge Adrian Fulford asked responsible staff of the court’s Registry to immediately consider the defense’s concern and advise the judges whether there would be difficulties in having the first five witnesses in the order preferred by the defense.
A failure to have the witnesses in the order preferred by the defence could have an effect on the strength of the defence case and the fairness of the trial, in which Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them in armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has denied the charges.
Presentation of the Lubanga defense will start after three victims participating in the trial have testified, beginning Tuesday, January 12, 2010. Since the resumption of the trial on Thursday, two experts have appeared before the court. They are Prof. Kambayi Bwatshia, an expert on Congolese names and other social conventions, and Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary general’s special representative for children and armed conflict.
Meanwhile on Friday, the defense team was given the details of the three participating victims who will testify next week. However, court granted a request by the legal representatives of the victims for information such as their telephone numbers and current residences not to be disclosed.