A former prosecution witness who told court last June that he had lied to investigators of the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week took the witness stand once again and stated that an intermediary of the court’s prosecution investigators cooked up lies which he in turn fed to the investigators.
The witness added, however, that the investigators from the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) were not party to the concoction of his statement. “The investigators did not influence me in any manner,” he said.
The testimony by this witness, who was referred to as ‘Witness 15’ continued to place in focus the role which intermediaries played in putting together witnesses and evidence against Thomas Lubanga.
On Monday before ‘Witness 15’ gave his evidence, Judge Adrian Fulford said the defense was entitled to knowing the identity of some of the intermediaries who assisted witnesses.
He ordered that the identity of one particular intermediary should be disclosed forthwith “because of the evidence we have heard since the beginning of January” concerning the role he played.
The prosecution’s Manoj Sachdeva on Wednesday said prosecutors were appealing this ruling.
He said the disclosure would have “grave consequences in terms of the potential safety of our intermediaries, of their families and the organizations they work for, in addition to making it even more difficult for the prosecutor to perform his duties in the field investigating conflict areas.”
Various defense witnesses have testified that intermediaries bribed witnesses to concoct evidence that incriminates Mr. Lubanga, who is accused of using child soldiers in inter-ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003.
This week, the tenth witness called by the defense testified over two days, but all her evidence was in camera.
Meanwhile, in his testimony on Wednesday, ‘Witness 15’ described how the statement he made to investigators during 2005 was concocted.
“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.
He added: “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.”
This witness testified briefly for the prosecution last June and declared that he had lied to OTP’s investigators, prompting an abrupt end to his testimony.
Judges directed then that a fresh statement be taken from ‘Witness 15’. The witness gave his new statement last June before prosecution and defense teams.
Prosecuting attorney Nicole Samson said this week that in his 2005 statement, ‘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 often saw top military men in the UPC’s armed militia when they routinely visited the UPC headquarters to meet Mr. Lubanga, said Ms. Samson.
Mr. Lubanga is on trial at the ICC over recruitment, enlistment and use of child soldiers. The court alleges that he was the leader of the UPC and its armed wing.
This week, ‘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.
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 on Wednesday.
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 his abduction by UPC fighters, the training he allegedly underwent at Mandro, and punishments meted out to errant trainees at Mandro. He allegedly told investigators about an incident in which some soldiers were executed after being tied to a tree.
Under questioning by Ms. Samson, he confirmed that all the money he received from the investigators was for his transportation, phone costs and feeding, and that he signed every time he received money. “It was not remuneration or a salary,” he said.
Ms. Samson asked him whether he read and confirmed the accuracy of his statement to investigators 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’.
‘Witness 15’ also told the trial that some officials of the ICC repeatedly ignored him when he sought means of confessing that he had told lies to the court prosecution’s investigators. He said staff of the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) and the prosecution’s investigators ignored his pleas to be provided with a lawyer, and suggested that he should use his own resources of he was not willing to use attorneys provided by the court.
The testimony by ‘Witness 15’ has echoed that given by several defense witnesses incriminating intermediaries in concocting evidence against Mr. Lubanga.
On Wednesday, the prosecution’s Nicole Samson asked ‘Witness 15’ why, from October 2005 to June 2009, he did not tell anyone from the OTP or the court’s witness protection service, that he had lied in his statement to investigators.
The witness replied: “I requested for the services of a lawyer [in 2006] because I was giving certain explanations and they were not being taken. I therefore wanted to be protected personally. I did not want to find myself in a situation of difficulty.”
He said he feared ending up in prison that is why he tried to engage a lawyer so that he would be able to confess to the lies he had told.