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Intermediary Denies Bribing Witness

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.

In his testimony, which lasted five days this week, the intermediary also claimed that he did not receive any irregular payments from the court while he worked for the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On Tuesday, ‘intermediary 316’ 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 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 called back  last March by the court to testify afresh.

Prosecuting attorney Manoj Sachdeva on Tuesday 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.

At the start of the intermediary’s testimony, Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford asked prosecuting attorney Manoj Sachdeva to try and conduct some examination in open court, after noting that the evidence of the last witness had “regrettably” been held in private session. “If there is any way of being able to deliver at least part of this evidence in open session, I would ask you please to construct your questions in such a way as to make that a real opportunity that court can avail itself of,” said the judge.

Mr. Lubanga’s defense is preparing an application asking judges to dismiss the case on grounds of abuse of process related to the alleged coaching of witnesses by intermediaries of the court’s prosecution office. Lead defense attorney, Catherine Mabille, says this application will be lodged around December 12.