Two intermediaries and an investigator from the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Court will testify in the Thomas Lubanga trial, according to presiding judge Adrian Fulford.
The judge made the disclosure today as he asked Mr. Lubanga’s defense to give an indication of when they are likely to make their planned application to the court to dismiss the case against the accused. From today’s hearing it emerged that besides one defense witness who is expected to give evidence next week, the trial will hear from the investigator and the two intermediaries, then the defense will ask judges to stop the proceedings on the grounds of abuse of process.
Mr. Lubanga stands accused of the war crimes of recruiting, conscripting, and using children under the age of 15 in armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prosecutors claim that he committed the crimes during 2002 and 2003 while he headed the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), a political group that had an armed militia.
Judge Fulford today asked the defense to provide information on the arrangements that were being made for the two intermediaries and the OTP investigator who he said were going to take the witness stand. “There will undoubtedly be travel arrangements in relation to two of those individuals and there may be security assessments that have to be made as well,” he stated.
Mr. Lubanga’s defense has accused intermediaries of the OTP’s investigators of bribing and coaching witnesses. The defense has also said all witnesses who claimed in court that they were former child soldiers in the UPC actually never served with the group. Because of this alleged abuse of process in putting together evidence against Mr. Lubanga, the defense in January declared that it would ask judges to dismiss the case after producing witness who would give evidence on how the evidence was allegedly corrupted.
“At present it is very difficult to establish a firm agenda as to precisely when the different parts of the abuse of process application will be dealt it,” Judge Fulford said today. He added, however, that one area which judges wanted the defense to have reflected on by next Monday was the suggested length of time which the defense would need for writing their submissions.
“You have flagged up for us back in January the fact that this is an application that you intended to make and we would have expected that whilst the weeks and months have been going by, the draft of this application would have been an ongoing process and as the evidence has evolved, so the final work would have come closer to completion,” said Judge Fulford.
The judge added that the defense would be given time to make final adjustments to the evidence of the last witnesses. But he cautioned that if the defense asked for a lengthy period to finalize its submissions this would lead to serious delays to the trial since the prosecution was likely to ask for a similar length of time to make its response.
Meanwhile, ‘Witness 297’, a former child soldier in the UPC, was today cross-examined by defense attorney Jean-Marie Biju-Duval. This witness, who was formerly on the prosecution witness list but failed to testify last April due to ill health, started his testimony on Monday.
Mr. Biju-Duval pointed out that that in the statement the witness gave to the OTP in 2007 he never mentioned where UPC soldiers abducted him from, yet in court he stated that he was abducted from Katoto School. The witness said he did not recall what he said to OTP investigators on the issue, but he was certain that he was abducted from Katoto School.
The defense attorney also asked ‘Witness 297’ to explain why in his interview with Mr. Lubanga’s defense last December he stated that soldiers who abducted him took him to Aru, yet in court he claimed they took him to Nizi.
“When I discussed this with you I had forgotten the names of the towns or villages. If I said Aru it’s probably because my memory was not working correctly and I forgotten,” replied the witness.
He added that when he met the defense lawyers he was not informed that they were going to interview him. “I did not know whether you had come to arrest me. I was afraid.”
The defense will continue its cross-examination of ‘Witness 297’ on Monday May 24, 2010.