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Investigator: How We Gathered Evidence Against Lubanga

An investigator from the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Court today started giving evidence in the Thomas Lubanga trial by explaining the roles of intermediaries in gathering evidence against Mr. Lubanga.

The witness also described how payments were made to witnesses and to intermediaries of the court’s prosecution investigators.

The unnamed official, who testified with protective measures such as face and voice recognition, was the first to take the witness stand of the three OTP investigators lined up to testify. In addition, three intermediaries who played a role in putting together evidence against Mr. Lubanga will also testify.

The investigators and intermediaries are testifying at the behest of judges, who observed that various defense witnesses had implicated some intermediaries in forging evidence by bribing and coaching witnesses.

According to testimony by various defense witnesses, many of the coached witnesses testified as prosecution witnesses and claimed that they were former child soldiers in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC). Mr. Lubanga is on trial at the ICC over the recruitment, conscription and use of child soldiers in armed conflict while he purportedly led the UPC.

Prosecuting attorney Nicole Samson today asked the investigator, who is still based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whether he sometimes paid witnesses and intermediaries.  

He responded that in the course of his daily activity, whenever a witness or an intermediary needed payment, he consulted his supervisors at The Hague, and if the payment was approved, he disbursed the money.

Ms. Samson asked the investigator to explain how much money he paid to an intermediary referred to as ‘Mr. X’ during a particular operation. The investigator responded that when Mr. X requested for money to transport him to an area, he double-checked with colleagues to ascertain that this was the accurate amount needed for that journey. He would then discuss the matter with his supervisors and once the amount was approved, he disbursed it to Mr. X.

“And during this particular operation, did you ever give money to Mr. X for anything other than this transport costs?” asked Ms. Samson about an operation whose details had been discussed behind closed doors.

“No. The money paid to Mr. X during all these operations was essentially for his transport to get the children, bring them to me, and take them back,” the witness stated, referring to former child soldiers who subsequently testified for the prosecution. He said all the money given to Mr. X, as well as to other intermediaries and witnesses, was duly signed for, with indications of the date received and purpose of payment.

bMs. Samson then asked the investigator whether at any time during course of this operation Mr. X told him that he thought or knew that one of the children the intermediary had met was lying about having been a child soldier.

 The witness said Mr. X never told him anything of that nature. “If he had told me of such a thing, I would have reacted immediately. I would have informed my bosses that such a child who was sent to me, who was questioned, was a not a bchild soldier, or had lied,” stated the witness.

 The witness also denied that Mr. X knew the questions which the investigator posed to the children he interviewed.

 “Mr. X never saw the questionnaire. It was not intended for him and I did not discuss it with him. The questions were for me, I met the children and I questioned him,” said the witness. He added that after questioning the children, he never discussed with Mr. X what the children had said. Instead, at the end of each day he sent his notes to his supervisors in The Hague.

The witness stated that some of the intermediaries who worked on Mr. Lubanga’s case were under the direct charge of desk officers based at the ICC headquarters. In the case of such intermediaries, he consulted the line desk officers before disbursing money to the intermediaries.

Mr. Lubanga’s defense meanwhile opposed a prosecution application for protective measures to be given to today’s witness during his testimony. But the OTP reported that the witness had requested the protective measures. Moreover, the OTP was very concerned about disclosing the identity of one of its staff members who dealt with logistics and interview processes in the filed, liaised with witnesses and investigators, and facilitated third party involvements.

“In order for us to be able to be fully active in the field and not to expose unnecessarily witnesses with whom this person has met or the operations we are conducting in the field, his identity ought to be protected from disclosure to the general public,” said Ms. Samson.

Judges granted the application, mainly on the consideration that the situation in the DRC was still volatile. But they warned that the chamber did not want to create a situation where nearly all of the proceedings were conducted behind closed doors.

The investigator will continue giving evidence tomorrow.