The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has been ordered to disclose to defense lawyers information provided by an anonymous informant on a witness bribery scheme purportedly run by Jean-Pierre Bemba.
However, in the ruling, issued on March 27, Judge Cuno Tarfusser ordered that any information which could lead to the identification of the unnamed individual should be withheld from the material handed over.
“It is necessary and appropriate that any and all information possibly leading to his or her identification (in particular, names and pseudonyms, email addresses, locations and travelling plans) be redacted,” he said.
Last month, Mr Bemba’s lawyers asked judges for permission to obtain information that would help to identify the informant whose tip off led to charges of witness bribery and evidence tampering being brought against the former vice president of Congo.
Defense lawyer Nicholas Kaufman said the name by which the informant identified himself, the email address he used to communicate with prosecutors, and the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from which his emails were sent, were material to the preparation of the defense case and establishing the truth.
Prosecutors opposed the defense application, stating that information provided by the informant was not being relied on as evidence in the new case against Mr Bemba. Furthermore, they said the identity of the informant remained unknown to them and that it appeared from the email exchanges that the individual wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons.
In determining whether the email exchanges could be regarded as material to preparation of the defense case, Judge Tarfusser stated that there was a distinction between an informant and a witness. He considered that an informant is an individual who, in exchange for the assurance of anonymity, contacts an investigator with information of potential interest. Such information is subject to close and careful scrutiny as to its truthfulness, reliability and relevance, by means of further investigations.
“By no means can information provided by an informant, whether anonymous or not (as opposed to a witness statement), be regarded, treated or relied upon as evidence in the context of judicial proceedings, and even less constitute the sole basis for a judicial decision,” he said.
The judge said it was nevertheless appropriate that copies of email exchanges between the informant and prosecution officials should be disclosed to all defense teams in the proceedings. He added that the defense teams would not suffer any prejudices from the redactions to the exchanges since they would not affect the content of the information the informant provided.
Mr Bemba has been on trial at the ICC since November 2010. He has denied criminal responsibility for murder, rape and pillaging purportedly committed by troops belonging to his group during the 2002-2003 armed conflict in the Central African Republic.
Last November, charges of witness bribery and presentingforged evidence were brought against Mr Bemba, his former lead counsel Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, and case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo. Also charged were Narcisse Arido, a defense witness, and Fidèle Babala Wandu, a member of the Congolese parliament.