Prior consistent statements

Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 13.12.2004 NTAKIRUTIMANA and NTAKIRUTIMANA
(ICTR-96-10-A and ICTR-96-17-A)

147. Although the jurisprudence of the Tribunal contains several comments on the use of prior inconsistent statements to impeach witness testimony,[1] it has not commented significantly on the proper uses of prior consistent statements. The Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal do not expressly forbid the use of prior consistent statements to bolster credibility. However, the Appeals Chamber is of the view that prior consistent statements cannot be used to bolster a witness’s credibility, except to rebut a charge of recent fabrication of testimony.[2] The fact that a witness testifies in a manner consistent with an earlier statement does not establish that the witness was truthful on either occasion; after all, an unlikely or untrustworthy story is not made more likely or more trustworthy simply by rote repetition.[3] Another reason supporting this position is that, if admissible and taken as probative, parties would invariably adduce numerous such statements in a manner that would be unnecessarily unwieldy to the trial.[4]

148. However, there is a difference between using a prior consistent statement to bolster the indicia of credibility observed at trial and rejecting a Defence challenge to credibility based on alleged inconsistencies between testimony and earlier statements. The former is a legal error, while the latter is simply a conclusion that the Defence’s arguments are not persuasive. […]

[1] Akayesu Appeal Judgement, para. 142; Musema Appeal Judgement, para. 99.

[2] See, e.g., Tome v. United States, 513 U.S. 150, 157 (1995) (“Prior consistent statements may not be admitted to counter all forms of impeachment or to bolster the witness merely because she has been discredited.”); R. v. Beland and Phillips, 36 C.C.C. (3d) 481, 489 (Supreme Court of Canada 1987).

[3] See 4 J.H. Wigmore, Evidence in Trials at Common Law §1124 (J.H. Chadbourn rev. 1972).

[4] See id

Download full document