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Lubanga Trial Adjourned Over Transcription Problems

The Thomas Lubanga trial today took an early adjournment after the defense noted that there were mistakes in the English transcript of the testimony of the fourth defense witness.

Catherine Mabille, the lead defense attorney, asked for the adjournment, and Judge Adrian Fulford granted it about two hours before the time court was scheduled to end the day’s proceedings.

The adjournment was requested as the prosecution’s Olivia Struyven was cross-examining the fourth defense witness who was testifying for the second day with protective measures such as face and voice distortion.

Before the adjournment, Mabille had pointed out that in the French transcript there were two names mentioned by the witness, whereas in the English transcript there was only one name. She said since she intended to question the witness again about that name in her redirect examination, the disconnect between the transcripts would present a problem.

The judge asked the various parties to consult with transcribers to establish whether the witness had mentioned the second name.

When the hearing resumed, Mabille said during the break the defense team together with Lubanga had double-checked and found that from page 27 of the English transcript of the day’s proceedings, “there are very serious interpretation problems” and the defense found it difficult to continue.

“I have discussed this with OTP (the Office of The Prosecutor) and with Paolina [Massidda, of the Office of Public Counsel for Victims],” Mabille said. “May we request the chamber that after the prosecutor and the legal representatives complete their examination, we should adjourn and re-read the entire transcript, that is double cross-checking interpretation of the transcript. And after that we can all intervene in the information contained on the transcript.”

The defense counsel also told court that Lubanga had said the witness who was testifying was very clear. “There shouldn’t be any difficulties apart from the fact that she speaks fast, but he says her answers have been very clear. And what we have on this last page [of the transcript] is not very clear,” Mabille said.

In response to Mabille’s application, Judge Fulford said there would be no question of asking the defense to conduct a re-examination of the witness if there was a material possibility that the transcript had “more than minimal problems”.

“It simply wouldn’t be fair,” said the judge. “Therefore you will not be required to conduct your re-examination in the short term this afternoon. And if, as a result of checking overnight, there are changes which put Ms Struyven at a disadvantage, she will have the opportunity of asking additional linked questions before re-examination.”

Struyven had earlier questioned the witness about an unnamed man who visited her home. Neither the prosecutor nor the witness mentioned in public what the purpose of the unnamed person’s visit was.

Two previous defense witnesses have been examined at length about their meetings with intermediaries of the OTP. These two witnesses accused the intermediaries of concocting evidence, including bribing or duping parents and guardians of young boys into joining alleged schemes in which the boys were falsely presented to OTP officials as having served as child soldiers.

Lubanga is being tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the war crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003.