The Thomas Lubanga trial today heard from a member of staff of the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) that child soldiers who testified for the prosecution were never promised or given any incentives to provide incriminating evidence.
Testifying for the second day, the witness, who works in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and handled some of the former child soldiers who testified for the prosecution, said both the children and their guardians volunteered to cooperate with the OTP.
The witness told the court, presided over by Judge Adrian Fulford, that as a field liaison coordinator, his role was to screen potential witnesses and hand them over to investigators who then interviewed them at length. He said he also organized for the transportation of the children and their guardians and provided financial and logistical support to intermediaries who put these children in contact with OTP staff.
“At any time when you were with children or adults, did you advise them or encourage them what they should tell investigators?” asked prosecuting attorney Nicole Samson.
The witness responded: “Nothing of that type was undertaken….there was no encouragement needed.”
Ms. Samson then asked the witness whether he promised the children or their parents anything in exchange for their cooperation with investigators.
“My job was to take children to meet the investigators and I limited myself to [this]…So no promises were made to the parents or the children,” he replied.
Ms. Samson then asked the witness whether the children or adults ever told him that they intended to lie to investigators. He stated that nobody ever told him that they intended to tell lies.
This witness is testifying at the behest of judges, who requested that the OTP provides its staff and some of its intermediaries to respond to defense testimony that intermediaries coached prosecution witnesses. Among the witnesses who were allegedly coached were those who claimed that they were former child soldiers in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).
Mr. Lubanga is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the recruitment, conscription, and use of child soldiers in armed conflict while he purportedly led the UPC.
Today’s witness said that investigators never told him the questions they intended to put to the children whom he presented to them as potential witnesses. Similarly, he added, the children never discussed with him what the investigators questioned them about. Most of the evidence by this witness was given in closed session.
During the cross-examination, defense attorney Catherine Mabille asked the witness to explain a discrepancy between the list of children that he received from the OTP and the list that was in the possession of an intermediary known as Mr. X.
“The list presented by Mr. X was a bit different [but] I cannot say it was radically different. There were one or two names more than the ones on my list,” said the witness. He added that once he realized this discrepancy, he informed his superiors, and he was provided with the final list of the children he had to interview.
“Do you know whether Mr. X, after modification of the list, contacted the person whom you refer to as his superior?” asked Ms. Mabille.
The witness replied that he believed that Mr. X and his superior were in touch after the final list was provided. He added, however, that he was not certain about this.
The witness also stated that the children he handled spent a number of years in a center managed by Mr. X and his line manager. He also stated that most of the children did not have identification documents. Most of them said the documents were burnt or lost during the conflict, he said.