The Thomas Lubanga defense team has asked judges to grant them permission to exchange information with lawyers for Germain Katanga, another former Congolese leader on trial at the International Criminal Court.
Lubanga’s lawyer Jean-Marie Biju-Duval told judges today that there are four witnesses common to the two trials and it is about these witnesses that the defense teams want to meet and to share information.
Although he did not say whether they were defense or prosecution witnesses, Biju-Duval said the identities of the witnesses were known to both defense teams.
Prosecutor Nicole Samson said prosecutors in both the Katanga and the Lubanga case opposed the proposed meetings and sharing of information by the defense teams.
Katanga is jointly charged with Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, also a Congolese national, with three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes. The ICC alleges that the two men led militia groups which used child soldiers and committed atrocities against members of the Hema ethnic group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which Lubanga is alleged to have led, was predominantly made up of Hema and fought against the groups which the ICC claims were led by Katanga and Ngudjolo.
“The defense has to share information about these witnesses… It is our right and we need to do so,” Biju-Duval said. “We think it is useful and necessary for the defense teams to the share results of their investigations. There’s nothing against that. This will only help in the establishment of the truth.”
He told judges that the information they wanted to share was of two categories: information collected by the respective defense teams, and information provided to the defense teams by the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP).
Samson said prosecutors did not see how it could be possible to exchange information without violating the orders restricting who got access to information concerning the individual cases.
“The information is known to the defense teams and it is possible that in the course of their exchanges, the information that is otherwise protected in one case is revealed, not internationally, is revealed in the other case,” she said.
Judge Adrian Fulford said barring defense teams from speaking to each other would be a denial of their rights to free speech and association, and would also represent an impediment to the preparation of their cases.
But Samson said that while each defense team was aware of the orders imposed on them by the courts regarding disclosure of information, there would be no means of monitoring the communication which would take place between the defense teams. She added that it was not the case that every item of evidence in a document compiled by OTP was of equal relevance across the two cases.
Judges are expected to make a ruling on Friday.
Meanwhile, the fifth defense witness called by the Lubanga defense started testifying today, but gave all of his testimony in closed session. He testified with protective measures.