Global Policy Forum

Congo Warlord Faces ICC Justice

Agence France Presse
January 30, 2007

The world's first permanent war crimes tribunal set the stage for its first trial on Monday, confirming war crimes charges against former Democratic Republic of Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga.

"There are reasons to believe that Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is legally responsible for war crimes consisting of the enrollment of children under 15. As a result, the court confirms the charges and rules that he should appear before a court for trial," French judge Claude Jorda said. No date was set for the first trial to be announced since the International Criminal Court (ICC) became operational in mid-2002, once both the prosecution and defence had argued their cases for and against going ahead.

Lubanga, clad in a traditional green robe, took notes and showed no emotion as the ruling was read out. The court found sufficient evidence that Lubanga abducted children and used them in armed conflict as "scouts, messengers, for stakeouts or as decoys," Jorda said.Lubanga has denied all charges, with his defense team seeking to portray him as a man of peace and dismissing as lies statements from alleged child soldiers presented by the prosecution. He had tried to play down his role in the armed wing of his political Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), one of six principal movements that emerged during ethnic conflicts that have ravaged the DRC's eastern Ituri region since 1999.

But the court ruled that evidence was sufficient to believe there was an agreement or common plan between Lubanga and other high-ranking commanders to recruit children, train them and deploy them in the frontline. There was also enough evidence to believe that Lubanga had an essential general coordinating role in the implementation of this strategy and that he was aware of the importance of his role, the court said in a statement. The charges cover the period September 2002 to August 2003, since the ICC's jurisdiction is only for crimes committed after its inception.

Humanitarian groups estimate that inter-ethnic clashes in Ituri and violence between militias seeking control of gold mines and other natural resources have left 60,000 people dead. While Lubanga may not be the person chiefly responsible for the atrocities in the DRC he is nonetheless a key figure and his trial would be important in setting the ICC's wheels in motion, they say.

Lubanga was arrested in March 2005 and held in the DRC capital of Kinshasa before being transferred to the ICC on March 16 last year. The Hague-based court enjoys the support of 104 countries around the world, but not three permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, China and Russia.

It has jurisdiction to try war crimes cases committed by nationals of member states or those committed within their territories. However, the United States fears that the ICC could become a forum for politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. citizens, particularly its troops serving abroad. U.S. President George W. Bush has even cut off funds to countries that declined to sign a separate agreement with Washington exempting US citizens from ICC prosecution.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on ICC Investigations in the Democratic Republic of Congo
More Information on ICC Investigations
More Information on the International Criminal Court
More Information on the Democratic Republic of Congo


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