The eleventh witness called for Thomas Lubanga’s defense today started giving evidence, but mostly testified in closed session. Although he had earlier indicated that he would testify without protective measures, ‘Witness 23’ last Friday requested for protection, according to presiding judge Adrian Fulford.
The judge said the witness had explained that he needed protective measures to cushion him against possible reprisals which could arise if members of his community learned that he had testified at the trial.
According to ICC prosecutors, Mr. Lubanga was the head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), a group whose militia used child soldiers during 2002 and 2003. Because of the still-volatile situation in Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the UPC operated from, most of the prosecution and defense witnesses have testified with protective measures such as face and voice distortion.
During questioning by defense counsel Marc Desalliers, ‘Witness 23’ said today that he was a former soldier, but he did not say in public session which group he served with. He was questioned about funding which he and other demobilized fighters sought from a donor agency for their motorcycle taxi project. The witness said the funds meant for their project were misappropriated, but he did not mention in public session who misappropriated the money.
The rest of the evidence by this witness was given in closed session. He is expected to continue his testimony tomorrow.
Earlier today, the former prosecution witness referred to as ‘Witness 15’ concluded his testimony, with a re-examination by prosecutors and the defense. This witness appeared briefly as a prosecution witness last June and told court that an intermediary of the court’s prosecution investigators had coached him. Last week, he stated that contrary to his earlier statement to investigators, he was never a soldier in UPC, and that he never saw any UPC commanders reporting to Mr. Lubanga.
Prosecuting lawyer Nicole Samson asked the witness whether he had told ICC prosecution investigators last June that he was not aware of anybody besides himself who had told lies to the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP).
“I was told that the prosecutor would have to keep me as a prosecution witness,” responded “Witness 15’. He continued: “When I arrived here, when I was in court for the first time, I wanted to talk about the truth of what happened. But in actual fact when I arrived and I did not say what they wanted me to say, I was frightened. They said that I might be prosecuted…”
Mr. Desalliers later asked the witness to tell court who told him that he might be arrested and prosecuted.
“There was a lawyer who said that it is possible there might be legal proceedings against me. That is why sometimes I was frightened and I had to be careful of what I was saying, and I had to camouflage things,” replied ‘Witness 15’.
The witness said the lawyer was provided to him after he told the OTP and Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) that he needed to confess to some lies he had told investigators in the statement he had made to them in 2005. He said between 2006 and 2009, VWU officials and the OTP investigator he had met in 2005 ignored his pleas to be provided a lawyer so that he could confess to the lies he had told.
“You talked about past contact with different people, [but] you never once asked to speak to a lawyer during that time,” Ms. Samson today asked ‘Witness 15’.
“We spoke on phone, all the calls were recorded. I requested for a lawyer in order to protect myself but the VWU had a strange attitude. Please double check the telephone recordings to see how many times I requested for a lawyer to represent my interests,” responded ‘Witness 15’.