The Issa Sesay defence team in their motion filed to the trial chamber over the payment for evidence by the prosecution to witnesses has submitted that “the integrity of the RUF trial and the legacy of the Special Court may well have been undermined by the payments or the public perception of them. It is imperative thus that the Trial Chamber seeks the truth and restores that which has been damaged.”
The defence team revealed that there is convincing evidence that the Prosecution is providing improper benefits and inducements in the form of payments to witnesses in order to obtain testimony.
The available evidence provides prima facie proof that the Prosecution’s so-called Witness Management Unit (WMU) instead of the Witness and Victim Section (WVS) provides witnesses with payments unrelated to legitimate, necessary, or appropriate witness expenses or security issues and that they [defence team] can substantiate their findings. They further noted that some of these payments are administered to witnesses to secure information, to ensure their “co-operation”, and as reward for testimony that assists the Prosecution “thus undermining the integrity of the RUF trial by inducing witnesses to provide false testimony against the Accused.”
Noting that these payments, provided through the auspices of the WMU, are ‘ultra vires’ the Statute of the Special Court they urged the Trial Chamber to look into these payments and investigate them before the closing of the RUF case.
It is argued that although the Prosecution has a responsibility to provide measures for the security and welfare of potential witnesses when they are necessary for the limited purposes of its investigations, this duty arises pursuant to certain Rules provided by the court but that the Statute and the Rules states that only the Registrar, through the WVS, is mandated to provide protective measures and security arrangements, counseling and other appropriate assistance for witnesses/victims who appear before the court not the prosecution.
The team submitted that it is clear that the WMU not only makes unwarranted and impermissible payments to witnesses but also has not fulfilled its disclosure obligations therein.
The Prosecution has a duty to “make a statement disclosing to the defence the existence of evidence known to the Prosecution which may affect the credibility of prosecution witnesses” they argued.
The defence counsel Order that the Prosecution provide a person or persons to attend the Trial Chamber to provide witness testimony concerning the role and function of the WMU in relation to witnesses and the details of all its payments to witnesses and also order that the disclosure of all payment records of the WMU be made to facilitate the aforementioned hearing.