Pierre Zuto Munji
This morning the prosecution concluded cross-examining Pierre Zuto Munji, private secretary to Commander Bosco Ntaganda, at the war crimes trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Prosecutor Manoj Sachdeva returned to the issue of UN complaints to the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) about the use of child soldiers in the Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). Referring to minutes of the June 16, 2003 UPC meeting, he suggested they reflect efforts to spin a message for the media but that the June demobilization order was never intended to be implemented. Mr. Munji denied this assertion.
Mr. Lubanga is charged with committing war crimes by recruiting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002 and 2003. His trial began January 26, 2009 and is near conclusion.
Mr. Sachdeva suggested that the UPC/FPLC meeting minutes for June 16, 2003 showed that information coming from the FPLC was inaccurate and unreliable because they were signed by Mr. Munji as the head of the Department for Administration, G-1, while he was not even proposed for that position until December. The witness explained he was acting in that capacity in June after the defection of the former G-1 chief, Floribert Kisembo. The prosecutor pointed out that yesterday he said Mr. Kisembo defected in December and at that time he was appointed to take his place, which was supported by a document in evidence. Mr. Munji insisted he had properly signed the minutes as G-1 chief in June 2003. That concluded Mr. Munji’s testimony.
On Monday, the prosecution interviewed ‘Witness 5’ then let him return home without providing an opportunity for him to appear in court. The interview was authorized in order for the prosecution to prepare cross-examination. While defense counsel was present at the interview, they did not question the witness, nor did the witness give his information under oath.
When Mr. Sachdeva attempted to introduce a four page summary from ‘Witness 5’’s interview, Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford expressed his displeasure. To have a witness here with potentially highly important information on issues recently raised by the defense, which tends to undercut their evidence, and to not provide the opportunity for the court to hear him and for both parties to question him was insupportable in his view.
Issues addressed by ‘Witness 5’ concerned the self-defense forces and UPC Executive Committee policy or decisions regarding minors. Judge Fulford stated that ‘Witness 5’ was the equivalent of the prime minister of the UPC. According to the prosecution’s written submission, ‘Witness 5’ discussed the extent to which self-defense groups were separate from or incorporated into the UPC and, if that happened, when it happened – issues highly relevant to the charge that Mr. Lubanga’s UPC used children under 15 years of age as soldiers. Defense counsel Jean-Marie Biju-Duval argued that these were not new issues for the prosecution but have been addressed throughout the trial
Mr. Sachdeva attempted to explain that the Registrar was responsible for the witness’s movements. “We were made to understand that the witness had to return the day after the interview,” he told the Judge, while admitting that the prosecution had not asked that he remain. They were still digesting the interview to determine whether to call him in rebuttal or even submit the written summary. The witness was willing to return, the prosecutor added.
The prosecutor was proceeding with the understanding that Rule 68 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence applied. The rule allows the introduction of a transcript or document of out of court testimony where both the prosecution and defense had the opportunity to question the witness.
Mr. Biju-Duval for the defense contradicted the prosecutor, informing the judges that the Registrar had asked the prosecution on April 7 whether they intended to call Witness 5 to the stand in order to determine if the witness should be kept at the disposal of the court. Mr. Sachdeva agreed the Registrar had asked that question but said the prosecution had not yet decided whether to call ‘Witness 5’ or not. Mr. Biju-Duval also contended that the prosecution had not given the defense an opportunity to question the witness, merely to be present, a contention Mr. Sachdeva denied.
Judge Fulford directed the defense and prosecution to research the extent to which the issue of self-defense groups incorporated into the UPC has been addressed during the trial or whether it has only recently arisen. Furthermore, the prosecutor should determine the witness’s location and availability in the event he may be asked to testify.
The defense called its last witness, a farmer and head of avenue in Bunia. As head of avenue he is responsible for assuring the safety of people and property there and reporting any problems. While most of his testimony was given in private session, the witness stated publicly that he checked every household on his avenue to determine if the rumor about child soldiers was true. Referring to a list of the inhabitants in his district that he made as a regular part of his duties every six months, he stated, “They are from my district and they have never been child soldiers.” The list to which he referred was made in 2007. He informed the court that he also had one for 2006.
The witness will continue his testimony tomorrow morning via video link.