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Chamber Sets Schedule for Final Submissions; Defense Questions Former Child Soldier

The Trial Chamber set the final schedule for written submissions from the defense and prosecution on abuse of process today in the trial of Thomas Lubanga for war crimes. Trial Chamber I has been hearing testimony about alleged witness tampering, following allegations that intermediaries used by the prosecution bribed or coached witnesses to falsely testify that they took part in the 2002-2003 conflict as child soldiers in the militia led by Mr. Lubanga. 

Rejecting a request for additional time, the Chamber gave the defense until December 10, 2010, to file its argument. The prosecution has until January 31 to respond and victims’ counsel, if they choose to do so, must file by that date as well. The Chamber allowed prosecutors a longer period due to the large number of factual issues they must address.  As for the defense, the additional testimony of ‘witness 598,’ called to replace ‘witness 555,’ “will not add in any significant way to matters already known by the defense,” the presiding judge stated.

The witness who testified yesterday, thought to be ‘witness 38,’ a former child soldier, was cross-examined by defense counsel, Mr. Marc Desalliers, about his relationship with ‘intermediary 316’ and payments the witness received from the International Criminal Court (ICC) from May 2007 to February 2009. The defense sought to determine whether ‘intermediary 316,’ the witness’s relative who introduced them, or another individual encouraged him to “say things that were incorrect or untrue to the OTP or before the Chamber.”

The witness related that a relative introduced him to ‘intermediary 316’ because he was looking for persons who had fought in the area where he fought. After the witness established to the satisfaction of ‘316’ that he had fought in that area, the intermediary took him to meet an investigator for the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC.  Questioned about the frequency of his meetings with ‘intermediary 316,’ the witness said they met often but only when OTP investigators required something from him. Once he was put in direct contact with the OTP, he most often talked with an investigator on the mobile telephone they had given him.

Defense counsel examined the witness about notes he had written and provided to the OTP. Though the witness had hoped to provide contemporaneous notes of military activities, he was unable to find them and learned they had been destroyed to avoid discovery by Ugandan troops. Instead, he wrote notes from memory identifying commanders and dates of battles.

Finally, Mr. Desalliers asked the witness about payments he received from the ICC between May 2007 and February 2009, the month following his testimony at the ICC. The court paid for his accommodation and medical expenses and one year of school expenses. He was given cash to buy food and he signed receipts for everything he received. The witness testified that the ICC fulfilled its agreement with him and that he did not make any additional requests for payment before his second appearance in the trial of Mr. Lubanga.

Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford thanked the witness for his time and trouble in returning to the ICC, particularly because there was potential risk involved due to his continued cooperation with the court. The remainder of today’s session was closed to the public for security reasons.

The Chamber will resume sitting on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. (14:00 hours) for an ex parte matter with the defense and Victim Witness Unit present. Hearings will resume on Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 2:00 p.m. (14:00 hours) to begin the evidence of ‘witness 598’ who replaces ‘witness 555,’ who was to testify about the alleged climate of fear and intimidation in Bunia among individuals alleged to have cooperated with the ICC but subsequently refused to testify.