20 December 2010

Report from Day 3

Day 3 - 8 December 2010

One of the expert witnesses on the question of the age of the youngest accused, Dr Fuhrmann, is supposed to give evidence today. But first counsel Jung submits an objection to the witness for a number of reasons.

The prosecution has failed to notify the defence of the medical examination performed on their client. They have also failed to explain to the accused why he was dragged out of prison and into hospital and what the medical examination was about. The accused was not informed of his rights, no interpreter was involved. His medical history was not recorded. The accused was ordered by means of gestures to open his mouth, to get undressed, to lie down underneath the x-ray machine, while he had no idea about the purpose of the machine. The defence had no possibility to object to any of this.

The defence then reads from publications by the witness and his colleague, in which they write about the role of the 'Expert Witness in Court'. They write that the primary goal is not to establish the truth, but to fend off critical questions by the defence and never to allow any doubt about the expertise. Otherwise they would risk their status as experts. In other words: if they were to give evidence that ran contrary to the prosecution, they could forget about their next job. There is obviously a monetary interest involved and the accused becomes an object of that interest.

More questions are raised about the relevance of the findings, the lack of a reference population, etc.

Then the lawyer raises the question if the experts aren't guilty of intentionally injuring his client by subjecting him to an x-ray examination without any medical indication. Therefore it would be in the witness' own interest not to give evidence because of the risk of self-incrimination.

After some discussion, the judge decides to proceed with hearing the witness and decide about the objection afterwards.

But now another problem arises: the defendants complain that they haven't been able to understand due to the speed of the exchange. The translators haven't been able to keep up, because many of the words used don't exist in Somali and had to be circumscribed. And how would the counsel know what their clients think was said? The judge reminds everyone to talk slowly and suggest that the translators should re-translate the circumscribed terms into German to check if they are correct. No doubt we are witnessing great moments of the German justice system.

But now it's back to the witness. Dr. Fuhrmann explains that in his opinion the accused is at least 18 years of age. The judge wants to know why no interpreter was present. That wasn't necessary, says Fuhrmann, because he was able to indicate to the accused what he wanted him to do. There was no communications problem. Does he remember his publication? No, not precisely.

The examination of the witness isn't finished but court closes.