International Criminal Court trial for DRC warlord

International Criminal Court trial for DRC warlord

THE HAGUE – Judges set up a historic first trial at the International Criminal Court Monday, ordering a Congolese militia leader tried for allegedly recruiting child soldiers and sending them to kill and be killed in a bloody tribal conflict.

A three-judge chamber found evidence was strong enough to “establish substantial grounds to believe” that Thomas Lubanga was responsible “for war crimes consisting of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15,” said presiding judge Claude Jorda of France. Lubanga’s attorney, Jean Flamme, is considering appealing, but said he would first have to study the ruling, which runs to more than 100 pages.Human rights groups and authorities in Congo welcomed the decision to put Lubanga on trial as a major step for victims of the country’s brutal civil war and tribal conflicts, which left some 4 million people dead through fighting, famine or disease.”We are very pleased with the confirmation of charges because obviously they are leading to the first ever trial at the ICC,” said Geraldine Mattioli of Human Rights Watch.”It is a big development for victims in the (Congo) as well – their first chance for justice.”Congolese Human Rights Minister Madeleine Kalala hailed the announcement as “a strong signal for our nation to fight impunity.”Lubanga is one of many warlords accused of egregious acts over years of civil war and lawlessness in Congo.Most have not been charged with crimes.One, Floribert Ndjabu, has been jailed in Congo.The court’s deputy prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said Monday that investigators hope to complete a second Congo investigation by midyear and start another later in the year.The decision was a landmark for the Hague-based court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute suspects responsible for atrocities around the world.So far, it has only Lubanga in custody in a special unit inside a Dutch jail.He faces three charges of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in the bloody conflict in the Ituri region of eastern Congo in 2002-2003.He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.Prosecutors expect Lubanga’s trial to start later this year but Flamme said he would likely need a year to build his defence and that he lacked the resources to prepare properly.Nampa-APLubanga’s attorney, Jean Flamme, is considering appealing, but said he would first have to study the ruling, which runs to more than 100 pages.Human rights groups and authorities in Congo welcomed the decision to put Lubanga on trial as a major step for victims of the country’s brutal civil war and tribal conflicts, which left some 4 million people dead through fighting, famine or disease.”We are very pleased with the confirmation of charges because obviously they are leading to the first ever trial at the ICC,” said Geraldine Mattioli of Human Rights Watch.”It is a big development for victims in the (Congo) as well – their first chance for justice.”Congolese Human Rights Minister Madeleine Kalala hailed the announcement as “a strong signal for our nation to fight impunity.”Lubanga is one of many warlords accused of egregious acts over years of civil war and lawlessness in Congo.Most have not been charged with crimes.One, Floribert Ndjabu, has been jailed in Congo.The court’s deputy prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said Monday that investigators hope to complete a second Congo investigation by midyear and start another later in the year.The decision was a landmark for the Hague-based court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute suspects responsible for atrocities around the world.So far, it has only Lubanga in custody in a special unit inside a Dutch jail.He faces three charges of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in the bloody conflict in the Ituri region of eastern Congo in 2002-2003.He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.Prosecutors expect Lubanga’s trial to start later this year but Flamme said he would likely need a year to build his defence and that he lacked the resources to prepare properly.Nampa-AP

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