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Intermediaries Stay In Focus As Lubanga Trial Resumes

Thomas Lubanga’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) resumed this week, and the role played by intermediaries of the court’s prosecution office continued to be the focus of defense questioning.

On Monday, a field liaison officer with the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) was questioned by defense lawyers about payments made to intermediaries, who contacted former child soldiers that testified against Mr. Lubanga.

However, while one of these intermediaries was expected to give evidence this week via videolink from Congo, the court heard that this individual had instead travelled to The Hague due to a miscommunication. This witness, who goes by the name ‘intermediary 321’, had his time on the witness stand last July when judges ordered a halt to the trial.

Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford told court on Tuesday that none of the witnesses who had been expected to testify this week were ready to give evidence. Although hearings had been scheduled for Monday to Friday, the judge announced on Tuesday that the trial would resume on Monday, November 1 . The judge said one of the witnesses had been unable to travel to The Hague because his passport was not ready.

Prosecuting attorney Manoj Sachdeva said ‘intermediary 321’ would testify on Monday, having indicated that he needed five days to familiarize himself with the testimony he gave last July as well the interviews he did with prosecutors last October and mid this year.

This intermediary, who has been implicated in coaching and bribing witnesses, testified last July, but the trial was suspended midway through his cross-examination. This was after the prosecution failed to disclose the identity of ‘intermediary 143’. The defense had wanted to know the identity of ‘intermediary 143’ for its questioning of ‘intermediary 321’.

Judges ordered the appearance of the intermediaries and investigators after several defense witnesses testified that intermediaries bribed and coached witnesses and engaged in various other acts of forging evidence.

At the bidding of judges, the OTP will also produce at least one other intermediary and two of its investigators, who worked on gathering evidence against Mr. Lubanga. One of the investigators is scheduled to testify next week via videolink.

During Monday’s hearing, lead defense attorney Catherine Mabille questioned the OTP’s field liaison officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) about payments to an intermediary who goes by the pseudonym ‘Mr. X’ and the circumstances under which this intermediary subsequently complained about the alleged misconduct of OTP investigators.

The witness said the money he gave ‘Mr. X’ was to cater for the transportation of former child soldiers who were brought to the field liaison officer for screening. He said all payments to the intermediary were authorized by OTP investigators or supervisors based in The Hague.

“Did someone from MONUC (the UN Military Observer Mission in Congo) call you that Mr. X had laid a complaint about the behavior of the ICC with regard to him?” asked the defense attorney.

“We had heard that Mr. X had approached MONUC so as to complain,” the witness replied. He added, “Mr. X had made complaints… about the way the ICC was operating and in particular what he considered certain dysfunctions.” The witness, who testified via videolink, gave details of this complaint in closed session.

In response to Ms. Mabille’s question, the witness said he was not aware of any financial claims by intermediaries being considered unjustified by the OTP. However, he stated that at some point his supervisors instructed him not to deal with ‘Mr. X’ because he was no longer an intermediary. Similar instructions were given about another intermediary, who was referred to in court as ‘Mr. Z’. The witness did not say in open court why these individuals ceased being intermediaries.

The witness testified that he screened several children, who had served as soldiers with the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), in a bid to find those who fitted the profile the OTP was looking for. The UPC is the group that prosecutors allege Mr. Lubanga headed.

Mr. Lubanga has been on trial from January 2009, although he has been in ICC detention since March 2006. He is accused of enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers in armed conflict during 2002 and 2003 when he allegedly headed the UPC and its armed militia.

While referring to several documents, including screening notes and email exchanges between the liaison officer and his OTP supervisors, Ms. Mabille asked the witness why several of the children he had been asked to screen eventually got left out. She also asked about discrepancies between lists of children which ‘Mr. X’ had and those prosecution investigators provided to the witness.

“Sometimes he [Mr. X] would have to go to the field to look for a child or another and then he would call to tell me that such and such a child is not available, or cannot be found,” the witness replied. At one time all 16 children who were due to be screened could not be traced, the witness said.

While the witness affirmed that he had screened some particular children Ms. Mabille asked about, all subsequent examination was in closed session. It was hence not possible to know what the interest of the defense was in these particular individuals. In the past, however, some defense witnesses have testified that intermediaries bribed children to give false testimony that they were former child soldiers in the UPC.