A defense witness who was introduced today will give all his evidence behind closed doors. Defense lawyer Caroline Buteau made this pronouncement shortly after the witness – the 12th called by Thomas Lubanga’s defense – took oath.
“In view of the protective measures that have been requested by the witness and in view of the contents of his testimony, the whole of the examination-in-chief will be in private session,” Ms. Buteau said.
Although it has been common for both prosecution and defense witnesses to give evidence in private session, announcing that a witness would provide all their major evidence in camera has been rare.
The majority of witnesses called by the defense have testified with face and voice recognition to protect them from possible reprisals. Most of them have given bits of their evidence in open session, although the bulk of it has been heard in camera.
According to the defense, the witnesses they are calling are testifying to the alleged falsification of evidence against Mr. Lubanga, a former Congolese leader on trial over the war crimes of using child soldiers. He has denied the charges, and insisted he was never in charge of the military affairs of the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), the group which the International Criminal Court (ICC) claims he led.
In the portions of their evidence which has been heard in open session, many of the defense witnesses have alleged that intermediaries of the ICC’s prosecution investigators bribed and coached some of the people who were later to testify as prosecution witnesses.
Catherine Mabille, the lead defense attorney, said at the start of the defense case that they would introduce 16 witnesses and then ask judges to consider throwing out the case on the basis of abuse of process. The prosecution contests the defense’s claims that there was any abuse of process.