ICC Intermediaries Allegedly Concocted Evidence

Two witnesses say the intermediaries falsely claimed boys were former child soldiers.

ICC Intermediaries Allegedly Concocted Evidence

Two witnesses say the intermediaries falsely claimed boys were former child soldiers.

Friday, 12 February, 2010
Two defence witnesses this week accused intermediaries of the International Criminal Court, ICC, of concocting evidence in the war crimes trial of alleged Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga.

According to the witnesses, the intermediaries paraded before ICC officials many children who had never served in the military, claiming that the boys were former child soldiers.

The court, presided over by Judge Adrian Fulford, was told that ICC intermediaries bribed, threatened or duped some of the boys’ parents and guardians into joining the alleged scheme to concoct evidence.

The ICC employs intermediaries – usually individuals who work for local NGOs – to gather information which is pertinent to the particular case being prosecuted.

Because both defence witnesses focused a great deal of their evidence on such intermediaries, Judge Fulford asked whether the prosecution would call these intermediaries to give evidence regarding accusations that they corrupted evidence.

“Are we going to hear from them? And if we are, when?” asked the judge. He asked if the prosecution wanted judges “to reject the defence testimony without having heard from the very people who are said to have been a corrupting influence as regards a significant element of the prosecution case”.

Joseph Maki, who completed giving evidence early in the week, told the court that ICC intermediaries gave him 200 US dollars as payment for convincing his nephew to give false testimony against Lubanga.

According to Maki, the boy subsequently testified as a prosecution witness and claimed that he had been a child soldier in the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC, the militia group which the ICC claims Lubanga led.

Maki said that, in return for the 200 dollars, he gave ICC officials permission to take x-ray images of the boy to help determine his age. He also said that he had to lie to the court’s officials, by claiming that he knew Lubanga and that he was aware that the UPC had used child soldiers.

Defence counsel Catherine Mabille asked Maki why he did not confess to the ICC officials, whom he met twice, that he did not know Lubanga and that his nephew had never served in any armed group.

“I was acting, saying what had been concocted [by the intermediaries]. It was a money issue. The white people didn’t know this, but we – the blacks – knew. I was told what to tell them,” he replied.

Maki said he met the ICC officials and their intermediaries on two occasions, once in the town of Beni in eastern Congo and once in the country’s capital Kinshasa.

“There were three white people, and one black person. The second time it was two white people and two black people,” he said.

Later in the week, Claude Nyeki Django, another defence witness, testified that although he was never in any armed group, he and other boys who had also never fought were displayed to people as former child soldiers.

The witness did not give explicit details about who these people were.

Defence counsel Marc Desalliers asked the 20-year-old witness, a resident of Bunia in eastern Congo, whether the intermediary who paraded them knew that he had never served as a child soldier.

“He knew that very well,” Django replied.

“Could you tell us what Dudu (the intermediary) told the individuals you met in Beni with respect to that fact?” Desalliers asked.

“Dudu did not say in his own words that I was not a child soldier,” Django said. “Why didn’t he do that? He expected me to be the one to give the account. He simply told me what I had to say and he told me to accept that I had served as a child soldier.”

Django said he had wanted to tell the people in that meeting that he had never been a soldier. But when he tried to talk, one of the men ordered him to remain quiet.

The witness said he and the other boys were later taken to Kinshasa by the intermediary with promises of vocational training. Instead, he said, they were locked up in a house for months, “We slept all day and at night time we slept as well… we were just in the compound, we couldn’t even move about.”

Although Django did not have protective measures such as face and voice distortion, he gave most of his testimony in closed session. It was therefore not known what role, if any, he and the other boys subsequently played in the Lubanga trial.

Under cross-examination by the prosecution, Django reiterated that the UPC did not conscript any child soldiers. He said children voluntarily joined the group. Most of those who did so were street children, but there were also some pupils who abandoned school to join the group when they saw soldiers of their age extorting money from civilians, Django said.

The prosecution’s Nicole Samson questioned the credibility of both witnesses. When she asked how he knew that the UPC did not conscript any child soldiers, Django responded that he had been told by those who served in the UPC.

Earlier, Samson had asked Maki why the court would believe him when, by his own admission, he had taken money from ICC intermediaries and then failed to declare to the court’s staff he met in Congo that he was part of a scheme to fabricate evidence.

Maki said he had come under pressure from his neighbours and members of his family, and he realised he had done something wrong.

“Even my big brothers put pressure on me… I was told that I was selling people, or that I was taking money to betray people,” he said.

Maki said he subsequently went to the village chiefs to ask for forgiveness. The chiefs put him in touch with the UPC secretary-general, who then advised him to talk to Lubanga’s lawyers.

Samson asked the witness whether UPC officials had given him money to testify as a defence witness.

“They categorically said no,” he replied. “Personally I asked for money and they said no… They said they were not thieves and were not wishing to buy my testimony.”

IWPR's weekly updates of the Thomas Lubanga trial are produced in co-operation with the Open Society Justice Initiative of the Open Society Institute, OSI. Daily coverage of the trial can be found at www.lubangatrial.org.
Support our journalists