An intermediary of prosecution investigators at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has denied that he told former child soldiers to give false testimony about war crimes accused Thomas Lubanga.
At the start of his testimony today, ‘intermediary 321’ told court that he never asked the children to lie about their ages, the villages they came from, or how they became soldiers in the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).
Prosecuting attorney Nicole Samson asked the intermediary whether he instructed the children to tell any falsehoods to investigators from the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) whom he introduced them to.
“No, I said nothing to the children,” replied ‘intermediary 312’. He added: “I already knew that they were children who had been part of the war and I could not have any influence on them and suggest that they say anything [false] during the interview.”
Ms. Samson then asked, “Did you encourage any of the children to say that they had been forcibly recruited by Thomas Lubanga?”
The witness replied that he had no reason to ask the children to tell lies about the way they became fighters for the UPC. He said that long before the children met the investigators, they had filled in forms in which they stated the names of their parents, the villages they originated from, and how they became members of the armed groups. Some of these forms were not related to their participation in the trial but to their reunification with their families.
“Each child had explained how they had become a member of the army. There was nothing in it for me to tell children to say that they had been forcibly recruited, and I didn’t know what they were going to be asked,” the intermediary said.
Judges ordered the OTP to produce ‘intermediary 321’ to give evidence, after a number of defense witnesses implicated him in various acts of corrupting evidence. Among others, some witnesses claimed that this intermediary bribed some individuals who were never child soldiers to lie to investigators that they were former members of the UPC. Some of these individuals reportedly went on to testify as prosecution witnesses and to claim that they were conscripted into the UPC.
Mr. Lubanga, the alleged former head of the UPC, is charged with recruiting, conscripting and using child soldiers in armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003.
According to Mr. Lubanga’s defense, all eight prosecution witnesses who claimed to have been UPC child soldiers actually never served with the group. The defense says it is about to file an application for judges to consider dismissing the case against Mr. Lubanga because of the alleged abuse of process perpetuated by the intermediaries. Besides ‘intermediary 321’, two other intermediaries and three OTP investigators will also testify about the alleged corruption of evidence.
During his testimony, most of which was held in closed session, ‘intermediary 321’ denied that he told any of the children he dealt with to lie about their names, or to claim to investigators that their parents were dead when in fact they were alive. He equally denied that he promised any of the children that if they lied to investigators they would receive money or other benefits.
“Why would I tell a child to lie? I didn’t know what they [investigators] were going to say to the children and what approach they would take to speak to the children,” he said. He told the court presided over Judge Adrian Fulford that he never attended any of the interview sessions between the children and the investigators.
‘Intermediary 321’ worked with a non-government organization which helped former child soldiers to leave the military and to reunify with their families.
The intermediary will continue his testimony next week.