War crimes accused Thomas Lubanga’s defense this week focused on the payments which a member of staff of the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) made to four intermediaries who helped to put prosecution investigators in touch with witnesses.
During the testimony of the OTP field liaison coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), lead defense counsel Catherine Mabille scrutinized several payments which this witness disbursed to intermediaries and witnesses, mainly former child soldiers.
Among the financial records under scrutiny were those related to ‘intermediary 143’. According to the testimonies of several defense witnesses, ‘intermediary 143’ allegedly bribed and coached prosecution witnesses, particularly those who subsequently told court that they were former child soldiers in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).
This intermediary is expected to take the witness stand to answer to allegations that he corrupted evidence against Mr. Lubanga.
This week’s sole witness explained that most of the payments he disbursed were for the transportation, subsistence and communication costs of intermediaries. In some instances house rent was paid for intermediaries after they had been relocated due to security concerns.
Testifying for the third day on Wednesday, the witness explained that OTP investigators based in the DRC and at The Hague would contact him to make payments to intermediaries. “I may know what the sums paid are for, or may not [know],” he said.
Ms. Mabille questioned the witness about payments to intermediaries who were identified as ‘Mr. X’, ‘Mr Y’, ‘Mr. Z’, and ‘intermediary 143’. Three of them introduced former child soldiers to the witness, who screened them and handed them over to investigators for in-depth interviews. Most of those children became prosecution witnesses.
“All the people who work as intermediaries for the OTP are paid in accordance with the various tasks that they carry out,” he explained. “There is a sheet, a record that is prepared by the investigators at headquarters. They are the one who keep track of the tasks in the field and prepare a document showing the number of days of work that intermediaries did in the field, and that is the basis on which payment is made.”
During cross-examination, the witness said he had known ‘intermediary 143’ since around 2007.
“Would you say ‘intermediary 143’ is still serving as an intermediary for the OTP?” inquired Ms. Mabille.
“To best of my knowledge, yes,” responded the witness. “I haven’t received any information that [intermediary] 143 is no longer an intermediary.”
All the subsequent questions about ‘intermediary 143’ and the witnesses he introduced to the OTP were put to the witness in closed session.
The witness, who testified with protective measures such as face and voice recognition, was the first to take the witness stand of the three OTP members of staff lined up to testify at the behest of judges. In addition, three intermediaries who played a role in identifying prosecution witness will testify.
The judges asked the OTP to provide 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 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.
This week’s witness told the trial that child soldiers who testified for the prosecution were never promised or given any incentives to provide incriminating evidence.
“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 asked the witness, who is still based in the 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.
Ms. 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 child soldier, or had lied,” stated the witness.
The trial continues next week with the testimony of an intermediary.