Thomas Lubanga was commander-in-chief of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. He is charged with war crimes, notably for conscripting child soldiers to further the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during 2002 and 2003.
His trial opened on January 26, 2009.
During the first step of the trial, the Prosecution called 34 witnesses to the stand. Lubanga's defence claimed that some of them were corrupted, therefore all the prosecution's witnesses should be dismissed. According to Lubanga's lead counsel Catherine Mabille, "intermediaries allegedly bribed and coached witnesses with the collaboration of the Prosecutor".
Last year, the defense called witnesses claiming to have been child soldiers in the Union of Congolese Patriots who talked about the falsification of identity by prosecution witnesses.
The Chamber tried to answer two questions before ruling on the matter : "would it be odious or repugnant to the administration of justice to allow the proceedings to continue?" and , "have the accused's rights been breached to the extent that a fair trial has been rendered impossible?".
The answer was negative. "It would be a disproportionate reaction to discontinue the proceedings at this juncture," judges concluded.
However, they asserted that they would be able to decide issues of fact during the trial, notably assessing any impact of the intermediaries on the evidence and reaching conclusions on alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
Lubanga's Defense took aim at four intermediaries. One of them, code-named "316" allegedly working for the Congolese government, encouraged false testimonies and passed false information to the ICC to secure Lubanga's conviction.
However, the judges ruled that "these alleged facts (...) are incapable of substantiating the suggested inference that the OTP was aware that it had been infiltrated by agents of Congolese President, who was seeking, by introducing false evidence, to secure a conviction of the accused".
Another intermediary code-named "321" allegedly provided children with fake identities. He also received 23,000 dollars from the Prosecutor's office. According to the Prosecutor, this money just covered the witness' s expenses to relocate as a protected witness.
Thomas Lubanga' s trial is expected to resume soon, though a date has not been set up yet.
Thomas Lubanga was arrested and jailed in Kinshasa in March 2005. He was then transferred to The Hague on March 17, 2006. His trial started at the ICC on January 26, 2009.
© Hirondelle News Agency