An International Criminal Court agent forged a letter in which officials of a Congolese militia group purportedly threatened to kill a witness for agreeing to testify against Thomas Lubanga, ICC judges heard today.
An unnamed witness, testifying in Mr. Lubanga’s defense, said an agent acting on behalf of ICC prosecutors and referred to in court as ‘Mr. X,’ wrote the threatening letter after the witness became reluctant to honor an earlier promise to the intermediary that he would lie to prosecution investigators that he was a former child soldier.
Continuing his evidence from yesterday, the witness said his family rebuked him when they were informed that he was part of a plot to fabricate evidence implicating Mr. Lubanga. When he informed ‘Mr. X’, the intermediary drafted a letter to a person whom the witness believes was an investigator for the ICC prosecution.
The witness said he objected when ‘Mr. X’ tried to append the name of Mr. Dieudonne Mbuna, an investigator for Lubanga’s defense in the Congolese province of Ituri, as the author of the letter. Subsequently, the letter was sent with only a thumbprint and no author’s name.
The letter was read out in court today, and was tendered by the defense as an exhibit. It was purported to be from “authorities of the UPC” and it labeled the witness an enemy. “Know that wherever you move to, we will not rest until we find you. You should know that it is your corpse that will go before the court with Thomas Lubanga,” said the letter.
It added: “We know that wherever you are going to move to, we are going to find you. Do you think that our strength is finished? Even your offspring, we are going to wipe it out. Do whatever you like but know that you can not escape death. And do not imagine that it is going to come from elsewhere. It will come from us the authorities of the UPC.”
The witness told the trial of Mr. Lubanga that he had several times received money from this intermediary on the understanding that he would lie to OTP investigators that he was a former child soldier. ‘Mr. X’ also asked him to convince other people to lie to the investigators that they were also former child soldiers in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), and that they knew the commanders of the militia group.
This witness is the eighth to appear for the defense of Mr. Lubanga, who is on trial over the UPC’s use of child soldiers in inter-ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during 2002 and 2003. Mr. Lubanga’s lawyers have said their first 16 witnesses will provide evidence that OTP intermediaries concocted evidence and coached witnesses.
The defense also contends that all prosecution witnesses who were presented as child soldiers, as well as their parents in some cases, deliberately lied to the court.
Defense counsel Jean-Marie Biju-Duval today showed the witness three receipts and asked him whether he recognized the signatures on them. The witness said he recalled signing those receipts when ‘Mr. X’ gave him money while they were in Kampala, Uganda in September 2005 for meetings with OTP investigators.
“Do you remember having received this sum of money – $400?” asked Mr. Biju-Duval.
“I was not given this sum in one swoop. I was not given it on one day,” replied the witness.
According to the receipt, the $400 was a “reimbursement of services provided and expenses incurred”.
The defense counsel then asked the witness about another document with his signature acknowledging receipt of $700. “Do you remember having received this sum?” Mr. Biju-Duval asked.
“Truth be told, I have no recollection of the precise sum,” responded the witness.
Two other documents titled ‘loss of earnings’ (for $30) and ‘transport’ ($10) were shown to the witness. He said he recognized his signature on the documents but he did not recall receiving the money.
The witness said he did not receive any money from the OTP investigators; it was ‘Mr. X’ who gave him all the money, he said.
Another receipt showed the witness had his bill at a store in Kampala paid for, but he declined to discuss those expenses in public session.
Previous defense witnesses have testified that intermediaries bribed, coerced or duped some people into claiming to the OTP investigators that they were former child soldiers and to tell stories intended to incriminate Mr. Lubanga.
Tomorrow the witness will be cross-examined by the prosecution.