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‘Hostile’ Prosecution Witness To Testify Afresh

A former prosecution witness who testified briefly in the Thomas Lubanga war crimes trial last June and told court that he had lied to prosecutors is expected to give fresh testimony next week.

The prosecution has indicated that it considers ‘Witness 15’ to be a hostile witness and will examine him to challenge the veracity of the new information which he has provided.

The witness will also be cross-examined by the defense on the brief testimony he gave last year as a prosecution witness and the additional information which he provided after he declared that he had lied to prosecutors.

Judge Adrian Fulford today indicated that next week would be a good time for the appearance of ‘Witness 15’ since a defense witness whose testimony related to ‘Witness 15’ has completed testifying.

Dieu Merci Patient Nobirabo Todabo, 21, today appeared as the ninth witness for Mr. Lubanga, who is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The witness testified in full public view, and gave his brief testimony in public session – except when he was shown a picture of his friend about whom both the defense and the prosecution questioned him.

Mr. Todabo said this unnamed friend was his classmate in Bunia in eastern Congo during 2001 and 2002. Because of the war, the witness fled Bunia, as did his friend. But Mr. Todabo sated that he later learnt that his friend had joined the Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) militia group. Prosecutors at the ICC allege that Mr. Lubanga was the leader of a different armed group in the area – the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and its armed wing.

When ‘Witness 15’ appeared in court on June 16, 2009, he said he had given the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) a false name, that he had told several lies to investigators, and that a third party – presumably an intermediary of the OTP – was involved in the fabrication of his evidence.

According to a filing made by the prosecution last September, subsequent to his dramatic and short-lived moment as a prosecution witness, ‘Witness 15’ made a statement before defense and prosecution lawyers. In that statement, he stated that he had provided a false identity to the OTP, including his name, his wife’s name and the names of his parents.

The OTP filing says “the witness stated that he had never trained at the UPC training center in Mandro and did not in fact witness any of the activity at the camp as he had previously stated. He also denied, contrary to his earlier information, having seen certain individuals from the UPC at the Mandro training center or witnessing daily reporting from Bosco Ntaganda in Mandro to Thomas Lubanga.”

The ICC has an arrest warrant out for Mr. Ntaganda, who it alleges was the deputy chief of staff of the UPC’s armed wing. Mr. Ntaganda remains at large.

Additionally, ‘Witness 15’ reportedly stated that he had lied about being involved in the move of the UPC headquarters to Bunia and about being a soldier in the UPC.

According to the OTP filing, ‘Witness 15’ also stated that he had lied about having undergone training in Rwanda for the UPC, and that contrary to what he had earlier told prosecution investigators, he had never met certain individuals connected to the UPC.

Besides the fact that a defense witness who has testified about ‘Witness 15’ has completed giving evidence, the recall of the former prosecution witness at this stage is expedient as the defense team is reporting delays in getting some of their witnesses to The Hague on time. Some witnesses expected to testify next week were today still trying to acquire passport, visas or clearance from their employers to enable them to travel to The Hague, defense lawyers said.