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Intermediary Denies Bribing Witness To Claim He Was Lubanga’s Child Soldier

An intermediary of the prosecution office at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has denied that he bribed an individual to falsely claim to investigators that he had served as a child soldier in the group Thomas Lubanga allegedly commanded. 

Testifying for the second day, ‘intermediary 316’ today denied that he offered money and then coached the individual who went on to testify for the prosecution. 

Last March, the individual in question, whose pseudonym is ‘Witness 15’, told the war crimes trial that he had told lies to investigators from the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) at the bidding of this intermediary. ‘Witness 15’ testified briefly in June 2009 as a prosecution witness, but his testimony was brought to an abrupt end when he stated that the intermediary had told him to tell lies. He was last March called back by the court to testify afresh.

Prosecuting attorney Manoj Sachdeva today read to ‘intermediary 316’ excerpts from the testimony by ‘Witness 15.’ “If I were asked questions about a battle, which had occurred in a particular village, I was supposed to give the names of certain people who were in the army in no particular order. We were getting ready in this fashion,” read the testimony about alleged witness coaching by the intermediary. 

“This is false,” replied the intermediary, who testified with his voice and face distorted in order to protect his identity. “I did not give him any names, and I did not make any comments concerning this.” 

In his testimony, ‘Witness 15’ stated that he had agreed to tell lies to investigators because ‘intermediary 316’ was spending money on him. “At the time he had money, he would buy me drinks and he encouraged me to take action. He would give me a bit of money and I agreed to lie,” this witness stated in March this year. 

The intermediary said those claims were false. He equally denied telling the witness to claim to investigators that he knew children who were conscripted into the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) – the group prosecutors allege Mr. Lubanga headed – and that he knew girl child soldiers who conceived while they were fighters with the group. Mr. Lubanga is on trial at the ICC over recruitment, enlistment, and use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The intermediary gave most of his testimony in closed session, so it was not clear how he responded to other claims ‘witness 15’ made against him.

In his 2005 statement, ‘Witness 15’ claimed that there were children, some as young as 12 years old, in the military training camp run by the UPC at Mandro village and at the UPC headquarters in Bunia town. He also claimed that while with the UPC, he often saw top military men in the UPC’s armed militia when they routinely visited the UPC headquarters to meet Mr. Lubanga.

However, when he took the witness stand in March 2010, he stated that contrary to what he told investigators in 2005, he never served in the UPC militia. He also stated that his earlier claims that he saw military commanders Bosco Ntaganda and Floribert Kisembo at the UPC headquarters were false too.

In his 2005 statement, the witness described his alleged abduction by UPC fighters, the training he purportedly underwent at Mandro, and punishments meted out to errant trainees. He told investigators about an incident in which some soldiers were executed after being tied to a tree.

When the witness declared in court last March that all these lies were the handiwork of ‘intermediary 316’, judges ordered the immediate disclosure of the identity of the OTP’s agent. The identities of two other intermediaries have also since been disclosed to the defense. Judges subsequently ordered two intermediaries and two investigators they worked with to testify about the role they played in the alleged corruption of evidence.

Prosecutors are due to call back the first witness, who testified for them and told court that he was a former child soldier in the UPC. According to prosecutors, ‘witness 38’ was introduced to the OTP by ‘intermediary 316’, and would testify as a rebuttal witness to affirm that this intermediary never asked him to lie to court.

The trial continues tomorrow with the testimony of ‘intermediary 316’.