Prosecutors in the war crimes trial of Thomas Lubanga at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today dismissed a defense witness as a liar and a self-seeker whose testimony could not be believed.
“You have lied to the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) for the last four years. You cannot be believed now,” prosecutor Manoj Sachdeva told the witness.
The witness denied that he had told any lies in court, where he has testified for the last three days.
But Mr. Sachdeva pointed out that since the first interview the witness had with OTP investigators in 2005 in Kampala, Uganda, through to other interviews in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2007, “not once did you tell the OTP that you had lied to them.”
The witness agreed with Mr. Sachdeva’s assertion that ICC prosecution investigators interviewed him for six days when he and an OTP intermediary referred to as “Mr. X’ visited Kampala in September 2005.
The prosecutor read a passage from the interviews, in which the witness stated: “I arrived here entirely on my own free will because I myself wanted to cooperate so as to help find a solution to the problems in Congo.” The witness recalled saying those words, and affirmed that he was not forced to travel to Kampala.
The witness testified that he received money from ‘Mr. X’ so that he could lie to the OTP investigators that he was a former child soldier. He said ‘Mr. X’ asked him to convince other people to lie to the investigators that they were former child soldiers in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), the group which ICC prosecutors allege was led by Mr. Lubanga, who is being tried for using child soldiers in armed conflict.
The witness said he abandoned that scheme when former UPC soldiers threatened him and after his own family members rebuked him when they found out that he was part of the alleged conspiracy against Mr. Lubanga.
In his interview with the OTP investigators, the witness recounted how UPC soldiers abducted him, bundled him into a four-wheel drive vehicle and took him to a UPC commander. He also told investigators how some soldiers at a UPC camp were tied to a tree and shot dead.
Mr. Sachdeva asked him whether these were all lies.
“Yes,” responded the witness, who testified with face and voice distortion to protect his identity. “As I said earlier, I have never served in the army. These were plans that we made up, lies we had fabricated and I had to repeat them.”
The prosecutor asked the witness whether ‘Mr. X’ was present during the interviews with OTP investigators. He responded that the intermediary never attended the meetings, but every evening he briefed him on what to tell investigators the next day.
According to Mr. Sachdeva, the prosecution’s investigators provided the witness with a number which he was advised to call in case of an emergency. He said the witness routinely called this number, on many occasions while he was drunk, either demanding for money or asking to be relocated from the DRC.
“If I called, sometimes when you are confused, I don’t know. I don’t remember,” the witness responded.
On Monday, the witness testified that ‘Mr. X’ promised that he would be relocated if he joined the conspiracy against Mr. Lubanga. The witness said he was never a soldier. Before the war broke out, he was a barber in Bunia town. When the war ended, he returned from Uganda and continued his hairdressing business in the town.
Meanwhile, lead defense counsel Catherine Mabille has today told court about the difficulties they are facing in getting some of their witnesses to travel from DRC. She said two of their witnesses who are lined up to testify next week are still stuck in Congo because authorization for their travel has not been received from their employers.
Ms. Mabille said an official from the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) who is currently in Congo has so far failed to trace the supervisors of these witnesses.
The defense said one of their witnesses lost his job in January this year because he traveled to the Congolese capital Kinshasa for several days for meetings with Mr. Lubanga’s lawyers. Officials of the VWU said the ICC’s Registry was going to offer compensation to that witness. Judge Adrian Fulford ordered that this compensation should be processed expeditiously.
The defense will call their ninth witness tomorrow.