The second defense witness to appear in the Thomas Lubanga war crimes trial today gave evidence without protective measures such as face and voice recognition — but he gave almost all of his evidence in closed session.
Because he said little in sessions which were open to the public, it was not known in what capacity he was testifying. The first defense witness, who completed giving his evidence yesterday, told court that his son had appeared at the Lubanga trial and lied that he had served as a child soldier in UPC. According to his testimony, the boy never served in any armed group.
When today’s witness was set to start giving evidence, Judge Adrian Fulford counseled him not be nervous about anything that would be happening during the course of his evidence.
“Though there are a lot of people in the courtroom with a number of lawyers who will be asking you questions, the judges will ensure that questions put to you are straightforward, readily understandable and clear, and that you are treated wholly fairly,” said the judge.
The judge added that during the course of his evidence, they would try as much as possible to remain in public session so that the public, including those who were watching the proceedings on the internet, would be able to hear his evidence. “But there will be occasions when we will need to go into private so as to protect the identities of particular individuals who need to be safeguarded against possible recriminations if their identities become known,” Judge Fulford said.
As it turned out, the witness gave almost all his testimony in closed session. In the public sessions, he was asked whether he knew a social worker whose name was only mentioned in closed session, and who worked with an organization that helped demobilize fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The witness said he knew the social worker, who according to the prosecution’s Nicole Samson collaborated with the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in identifying their witnesses.
It is expected that the prosecution will question the second defense witness on Monday when the trial resumes.
Before today’s hearing came to an end, Judge Fulford told Lubanga’s lead counsel that said it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the prosecution to commence questioning the witness on the basis of the evidence he had given if prosecutors had not been provided with some advance notice of what the witness was going to say. He said evidence of that kind required an element of reflection, preparation and probably investigation before prosecutors could deal with it adequately by way of questioning.
“It may be that you come to the view that on a wholly voluntary basis, for the witnesses to come, particularly those in this category, it may be desirable for there to be a realistic element of additional disclosure to the prosecution in advance so that they are not going to be put in the position Ms. Samson was describing earlier of needing to request an adjournment every time questioning from you has finished so that they can prepare for their questioning,” said the judge.
He said if that were to happen, it would lengthen the trial dreadfully.
The ICC alleges that Lubanga was the commander-in-chief of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), a militia group that used child soldiers in inter-ethnic fighting in DRC.
But Lubanga’s defense team has said it will show that prosecution witnesses who testified as former child soldiers actually never were, and that they deliberately told judges lies with the collusion of agents of the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP).
No more hearings in the Lubanga trial will be held this week. The defense case will resume next Monday, February 8.