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Former Prosecution Witness Says Intermediary Coached Him

A former prosecution witness today told the Thomas Lubanga trial that an intermediary of the International Criminal Court’s prosecution investigators fed him lies, which he in turn related to the court’s investigators.

The witness added, however, that the investigators from the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) did not know that he was telling them lies.

Referred to as ‘Witness 15’, he testified briefly for the prosecution last June and declared that he had lied to the OTP investigators, which prompted an abrupt end to his testimony. Judges directed then that a fresh statement be taken from the witness.

According to prosecutors, in his 2005 statement to OTP investigators, ‘Witness 15’ claimed that there were children, some as young as 12, in the military training camp run by the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) at Mandro and at the UPC headquarters in Bunia town. He also claimed that while with the UPC, he had often seen the top military men in the UPC’s armed militia when they routinely went to the UPC headquarters to meet Mr. Lubanga, prosecutors say.

Mr. Lubanga is on trial at the ICC over the recruitment, enlistment and use of child soldiers in armed conflict. The court alleges that he was the leader of the UPC and its armed wing, which used child soldiers in inter-ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003.

Today, ‘Witness 15’ who testified with protective measures stated that contrary to what he told investigators in 2005, he never served in UPC. He also stated that his earlier claims that he saw military commanders Bosco Ntaganda and Floribert Kisembo at the UPC headquarters were equally false.

He said that an intermediary of the OTP investigators concocted some of the lies he made in the statement given to the investigators in 2005.

“Each time I met the investigators, I had an intermediary who came to see me at the hotel. He would tell me everything I had to say,” stated the witness. “Although he told me everything I was supposed to say, he was not the one who went before the investigators. He gave me the general idea and I was allowed to add a few details.”

In his 2005 statement, ‘Witness 15’ stated that there were many child soldiers at the UPC headquarters, and that some of them were bodyguards to Mr. Ntaganda and Mr. Kisembo. He said that they “were small and the weapons they bore were a lot bigger than them”, according to portions of that statement which prosecutors read out in court today.

The witness admitted that an investigator he met during 2005 explained to him that he was from the ICC. Prosecuting attorney Nicole Samson asked the witness whether he had read the statement he made to the investigator and confirmed that it was accurate before he signed it.

“No, I did not read the statement. The person who took me to the investigator gave me kind of a briefing. He said to me that I must not read. That I have to pretend that I couldn’t read and claim that I have problems with my vision,” replied ‘Witness 15’.

Ms. Samson asked the witness whether he had ever been to the UPC’s training camp at Mandro.

“I never took part in military training given by the UPC,” the witness stated.

Prosecutors say that in his 2005 statement, the witness described how he was abducted by UPC fighters and taken to one of the group’s commanders. He also described the training he allegedly underwent at Mandro and the punishments trainees at Mandro could get if commitment offenses. He told investigators about an incident in which some soldiers were tied to a tree and then executed.

The witness said today that OTP prosecutors did not ask him to tell lies. “The investigators did not influence me in any manner,” he said.

Under questioning by Ms. Samson, he confirmed that all the money that investigators gave him was for his transportation, phone costs and feeding, and that he signed every time he received money. “It was not remuneration or a salary,” the witness said of the money he received from the OTP investigators.

Mr. Lubanga’s defense is expected to question the witness tomorrow.