Defense counsel Jean-Marie Biju-Duval concluded the cross-examination of Mr. Nicolas Sebire, investigator for the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on issues of abuse of process in the trial of Thomas Lubanga for conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003. Trial Chamber I is hearing testimony about alleged witness tampering, following allegations that intermediaries used by the OTP bribed or coached witnesses to falsely testify that they took part in the 2002-2003 conflict as child soldiers in the militia of Mr. Lubanga.
Mr. Biju-Duval focused his concluding inquiry on what attempts the OTP investigators made to verify the identities of contacts provided by ‘intermediary 316’ who testified earlier, denying allegations of wrongdoing. The witness replied that they checked the OTP archives and found nothing negative. Attempts to check other sources were unsuccessful or he did not know the results. Nor did the OTP investigators check the accuracy of factual information provided by ‘intermediary 316’ with his spouse, Mr. Sebire said in response to defense counsel.
Neither the victims’ counsel nor the prosecution had further questions and Mr. Sebire was excused from court.
The prosecution called a protected witness, apparently a former child soldier, to counter defense claims that prosecution ‘intermediary 316’coached and bribed witnesses to falsely testify that they fought in Mr. Lubanga’s militia while they were under legal age. The witness testified with face and voice distortion to hide his identity. The Chamber closed the session to the public at several points to protect his identity as well. He was not referred to by a number during open sessions, though he has testified in this trial earlier. The prosecution advised the Chamber at an earlier session that it would recall ‘witness 38,’ a former child soldier, who would testify that ‘intermediary 316’ did not tell him to lie. Today’s witness could well be ‘witness 38.’
The witness described meeting with ‘intermediary 316’ who verified that the witness had taken part in the fighting by his demobilization card and his ability to identify his commanders. ‘Intermediary 316’ then arranged for the witness to meet with a representative of the OTP.
The prosecutor took the witness step by step through his contacts with ‘intermediary 316’ from the time of his first meeting with an OTP investigator in March 2006 through the last contact in January 2007. The witness stated that at no time did he discuss with ‘intermediary 316’ the substance of his interviews with the OTP investigators. The intermediary facilitated contacts with the OTP, securing travel documents, and making travel arrangements. He accompanied the witness to the first interview and took him to the airport for the second interview. Occasionally, ‘intermediary 316’ called him to see how he was doing.
He described one occasion where he called ‘intermediary 316’ to assist him in securing the return of the mobile phone given to him by the OTP from a third party who was holding onto it and would not return it. The intermediary contacted the police who saw that it was returned to him. After that, he merely encountered ‘316’ on the street and spoke with him briefly.
In June 2006, the witness returned from his school in Bunia where ‘intermediary 316’ lived to his parents’ home in Ituri. In January 2007, he moved back to Bunia to attend university. As a result of receiving numerous threatening phone calls in March and April, however, he sought the ICC’s help and was moved to Kinshasa. The last time he had contact with ‘intermediary 316’ was in January 2007, he testified, when he saw him in Bunia. It was a casual and brief exchange of pleasantries. The witness repeated several times that at no time did he discuss the substance of his interviews or testimony with ‘intermediary 316.’ He took seriously the OTP investigator’s admonition not to talk to anyone about it.
At the close of direct examination, the prosecutor led the witness through a series of direct questions on whether ‘intermediary 316’ ever asked him to give a particular account or gave or promised him a reward for what he would say or made an agreement with him to provide false stories to the ICC. The witness emphatically said he had not. “I only said what I knew or had done. I did not blow anything out of proportion or leave anything out. It is a question of morality, of ethical standards. I am from a Christian family. . . . Lying is a sin. I would rather have problems with myself than problems with morality.”
Defense counsel will cross-examine this witness tomorrow beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Among administrative matters the Chamber took up at the beginning of today’s session, Mr. Sachdeva raised an anticipated need for additional time, arguing that the defense has widened its inquiry on abuse of process to include whether the OTP failed to investigate exonerating evidence. The prosecutor pointed out that witnesses were never questioned in court about false identities. The OTP requested that 10 days be added to the schedule. Under this regime, the defense would have until January 10, 2011 to file a request for the charges to be dismissed due to abuse of process, and the prosecution would have until January 21, 2011 to respond. Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford said the Chamber would reflect on the OTP request.