Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Role of Intermediaries Questioned Again

Witness says they coached him on what to say to the court’s investigators. By Wairagala Wakabi in The Hague
By Wairagala Wakabi

A witness who previously testified for the prosecution in the war crimes trial of alleged Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga took the stand again this week to claim that an intermediary of the court’s investigators told him what to tell the latter.

The witness, testifying with voice and face distortion, told the International Criminal Court, ICC, however, that the investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, “did not influence me in any manner”.

The ICC employs intermediaries, usually individuals who work for local NGOs, to gather information relating to a particular case that is being prosecuted.

The witness first said he lied to investigators last June, prompting judges at the ICC to rule that the witness must make a fresh statement before his testimony could continue.

These latest witness remarks have continued to focus attention on the role which intermediaries played in finding witnesses and compiling evidence against Lubanga, alleged former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, UPC, who is accused of using child soldiers in inter-ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo during 2002 and 2003.

“Each time I met the investigators, I had an intermediary who came to see me at the hotel. He would tell me everything I had to say,” the witness said.

Prosecuting lawyer Nicole Samson said this week that, in his original 2005 statement, the witness claimed that there were children, some as young as 12, at the UPC headquarters in Bunia, capital of Ituri province, and the nearby military training camp at Mandro village.

Samson also noted that the witness had previously said that, while with the UPC, he often saw senior military men in its militia when they visited the UPC headquarters to meet Lubanga.

But the witness contradicted his earlier statements by claiming that he had never served in the UPC. He also stated that his earlier claims of seeing military commanders Bosco Ntaganda and Floribert Kisembo at the UPC headquarters were equally false.

In his 2005 statement, the witness stated that there were many child soldiers at the UPC headquarters, and that some of them were bodyguards of Ntaganda and Kisembo. He said that they “were small and the weapons they bore were a lot bigger than them”, according to portions of the statement that prosecutors read out in court this week.

Samson asked the witness whether he had ever been to the UPC’s training camp at Mandro.

“I never took part in military training given by the UPC,” the witness replied.

According to prosecutors, the witness in his 2005 statement also described his abduction by UPC fighters, training he underwent at Mandro and punishments meted out to errant trainees at the camp.

Under questioning by Samson, he confirmed that all the money he received from the investigators was for his travel, phone costs and food, and that he signed every time he received money. “It was not remuneration or a salary,” he said.

Samson asked him whether he read and confirmed the accuracy of his statement to investigators before he signed it.

“No, I did not read the statement,” he replied. “The person who took me to the investigator gave me a briefing. He said to me that I must not read [the statement], that I have to pretend that I couldn’t read and claim that I have problems with my vision.”

Presiding judge Adrian Fulford caused concern among the prosecution when he said the defence is entitled to know the identity of some of the intermediaries who assisted witnesses.

He ordered that the identity of one particular intermediary should be disclosed forthwith “because of the evidence we have heard since the beginning of January” concerning the role he played.

But prosecutors said that they would appeal against this ruling.

Prosecution lawyer Manoj Sachdeva insisted that the disclosure would have “grave consequences in terms of the potential safety of our intermediaries, of their families and the organisations they work for, in addition to making it even more difficult for the prosecutor to perform his duties in the field investigating conflict areas”.

IWPR's weekly updates of the Thomas Lubanga trial are produced in cooperation with the Open Society Justice Initiative of the Open Society Institute, OSI. Daily coverage of the trial can be found at http://www.lubangatrial.org/

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