Judges in the Thomas Lubanga trial today heard how agents of the International Criminal Court (ICC) allegedly paid a Congolese barber who had never been a soldier to lie to the court’s investigators that he was a former child soldier.
The agents – or intermediaries — arranged a series of meetings with the man and ICC prosecution investigators in the eastern Congolese town of Bunia and in the Ugandan capital Kampala, today’s defense witness told court.
The eighth witness to appear for the Lubanga defense, who started giving testimony today, said at one time he spent two weeks in a Kampala hotel while he and the intermediary had a series of meetings with ICC prosecution investigators. The witness gave evidence with his voice and face distorted to protect him against possible reprisals.
This witness mostly testified in open session but neither his name nor that of the intermediary was mentioned in court sessions that were open to the public. The intermediary was referred to as ‘Mr. X’.
Defense counsel Jean-Marie Biju-Duval asked the witness to explain his initial meetings with ‘Mr. X’.
“He told me that he was working with ICC,” said the witness. “He told me that he needed someone to say something about Mr Thomas Lubanga, so that is what we planned during the meetings: to tell lies.”
Mr. Lubanga is on trial at the ICC over the use of child soldiers in inter-ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during 2002 and 2003. ICC prosecutors say Mr. Lubanga was the president of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and the commander-in-chief of its armed wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).
Some weeks after the witness met ‘Mr. X’, he met prosecution investigators, first in a nightclub in Bunia, and then in Kampala, Uganda, he told the court.
But before meeting the ICC prosecution investigators, ‘Mr. X’ coached him and other people about what to tell the investigators. In those coaching sessions, some of which lasted overnight, the witness and other people who were to claim to ICC prosecution investigators that they were former child soldiers were given names of former FPLC commanders which they were told to mention to the investigators.
“What kind of lies had to be planned with Mr X?” asked Mr. Biju-Duval.
“The lie that we had to plan was to say that he [Mr. Lubanga] had enrolled children in the army and that I myself was amongst those children and that I had seen those children. Furthermore that there had been young girls [in UPC’s militia],” replied the witness.
“Why did you agree to meet investigators to tell them lies?” Mr. Biju-Duval asked.
“Well, at that time there was money and they bought me drinks and they encouraged me to take action, they gave me some money and I agreed to lie. So that is how those things came to be,” the witness said.
“Who gave you money” Mr. Biju-Duval asked.
“It was ‘Mr. X’,” the witness stated.
“Did he tell you anything else? Did he promise anything else?” Mr. Biju-Duval asked.
“He didn’t promise me anything. He didn’t tell me anything, he said I was going to leave Bunia and go to the country of the white people,” the witness responded.
The witness did not say how much money the intermediary paid him. He also did not say what happened after he met ICC prosecution investigators in Kampala and told them that he had been a child soldier. Tomorrow the defense will continue to question this witness.
Earlier today, the seventh defense witness completed giving his evidence. The 25-year-old said he served as the bodyguard of a brother to Bosco Ntaganda, who was reportedly the deputy chief of staff of the FPLC. He testified in full public view, although some parts of his testimony were in closed session.