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Former Suspect Now Declines Interview with Lubanga Prosecutors

A former suspect in the war crimes investigations of the Office of The Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has now gone back on his earlier promise to grant an interview to prosecutors in the Thomas Lubanga trial. 

‘Witness 3’, who was first interviewed by prosecutors in 2005 as a suspect, over the years declined additional  interviews with the prosecutors of Mr. Lubanga as they attempted to turn him into their witness. Last February, he consented to an interview, and prosecutors were set to interview him two weeks ago.

However, Judge Adrian Fulford disclosed today that the witness had changed his mind about the interview. “The [prosecution’s] attempts to arrange an interview with ’Witness 3’ have failed because of a clear, apparent disinclination on his part to cooperate in any kind of interview process. That fact needs to go onto the public record, which is why I am making this announcement now,” said Judge Fulford. 

He added that in due course if any of the parties to the trial wished to suggest other steps to be taken by the Registry or the chamber regarding ‘Witness 3’, they were welcome to raise the matter.

Earlier this month, Judge Fulford said that prosecutors would question ‘Witness 3’ about intermediaries of the ICC’s prosecution investigators whom he met. While the exact nature of the questioning was not known, several defense witnesses have testified that intermediaries coached prosecution witnesses and forged evidence implicating Mr. Lubanga.

In another development, judges today rejected an application by prosecutors to exclude defense representatives from interviews they will conduct with two intermediaries who will testify in the trial. Judges said there was no reason for keeping defense representatives out of the meetings because the identities of intermediary 316 and intermediary 321 were already known to Mr. Lubanga’s lawyers.

The judges noted that under normal circumstances a party is entitled to meet with potential witnesses in the absence of the other party prior to the commencement of the familiarization process, provided the interview does not constitute witness proofing. The chamber also recognized that the meeting would provide an opportunity for prosecutors to explore with the intermediaries the allegations that have been made against them, which would assist prosecutors to prepare for their questioning.

“However, the intermediaries are to give evidence at the express request of the chamber and they are not otherwise witnesses who are being called by either party although the defense asked the chamber to call them,” said the judges in the ruling delivered by Judge Fulford. “Furthermore, given the recent developments as regards the position of intermediaries generally, and these two intermediaries in particular, the defense has a substantial interest in witnessing the interviews that will in all likelihood take place shortly before their testimony.”

Meanwhile, the prosecution today cross-examined a school inspector from Bunia town in Congo who has provided school reports and registers for several institutions that former child soldiers who testified for the prosecution said they attended.

Mr. Lubanga’s defense has claimed that the documents show that at least seven of those prosecution witnesses, who claimed they were child soldiers in UPC, and others who told court that they were conscripted into the group, lied about their identities and the institutions they attended, as their details are reportedly missing from the school records.

Mr. Lubanga faces the war crimes of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in armed conflict in the DRC during 2002 and 2003. Prosecutors at the ICC allege that Mr. Lubanga was the head of the UPC, which used child soldiers.

Prosecuting attorney Manoj Sachdeva today pointed out to the defense witness that in some school registers there entries made for students who enrolled in May 2003, and then subsequent entries were made for students whose registration dates were stated as a year earlier than 2003. The witness said this was probably because of the poor record keeping at some schools. He added that some school teachers sometimes make temporary records for the students and later transfer them to the permanent register.

This witness has conceded that while he received most of the school reports that he presented in The Hague from the principals of the schools, other documents were given to him by Mr. Dieudonné Mbuna, a Congo-based investigator for Mr. Lubanga’s defense team.

Prosecutors will tomorrow continue cross-examining the school inspector.