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First Defense Witness In Court Tomorrow

The first witness to appear for the Thomas Lubanga defense is expected to give evidence tomorrow (Wednesday). The witness will presented after lead counsel Catherine Mabille has explained how the case will unfold and highlighted certain themes of the accused’s case. 

But Mabille has today said that they were experiencing some problems related to their first witness, which they wanted the court to resolve. 

“I wanted to say we were not able to resolve the issue associated with our discussion with our witness number two linked with problems of translation,” Mabille told court. “So we are going to be meeting this evening in order to discuss this with him. He will be testifying tomorrow. I want to draw the chamber’s attention to that matter.”

The defense counsel continued: “We also came up against the same concern with reference to the second witness due to testify who were going to request his consent so that he meets with the Office of The Prosecutor and this was not possible either. I believe the problem is associated with the availability or non-availability of translators.”

Judge Adrian Fulford said it was critical that all concerned departments liaise to address the difficulties the defense was facing. “Time is now extremely precious given that we are having to share two courtrooms between three trials and the chamber will be very reluctant indeed to lose time for administrative problems… applications to adjourn under the present arrangements will be treated very sceptically.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) charges that Lubanga enlisted and conscripted children under the age of 15 years and used them “to participate actively” in armed conflict. The alleged crimes were committed between September 2002 and August 2003 in Ituri province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Meanwhile earlier today judges barred the prosecution from questioning a witness about some events which the witness had referred to earlier in the day. The prosecution’s Manoj Sachdeva had sought to ask the witness about his statement that on December 23, 2003 armed groups had gone to the town of Mahagi in eastern Congo in order to recruit volunteers.

Lubanga’s lawyer Jean-Marie Biju-Duval protested, reasoning that the trial would be caught up in an interminable spiral if the prosecution were allowed to examine the witness on the events of December 23, 2002. It was not clear what the events were, as the witness had explained them in closed session. This witness is one of two participating victims  who had concluded giving their evidence but were on Monday called back to the witness box for more questioning at the bidding of the defense team.

“I believe that the prosecution evidence has been concluded and I don’t believe that it will be appropriate that through this questioning the prosecution should try to tender new evidence today,” Biju-Duval said.

Judge Fulford said the chamber was of the view that allowing the prosecution to question the witness on the events of December 2002 would be to introduce a wholly new and hitherto un-investigated element into the case. That element had emerged because of the way in which the witness answered at least one of the questions Biju-Duval put to him, he said.

“There has to be finality in relation to the evidence given by witnesses and in our view to allow this area now to be opened up in what should be the closing moments of this witness’s testimony would be undesirable and against the interests of justice,” Judge Fulford concluded.