Global Policy Forum

Congo Militia Head Lubanga Faces First ICC Trial


By Reed Stevenson

November 12, 2007

Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, accused of using child soldiers in his country's 1998-2003 war, will face trial in March 2008, the first person to be tried by the International Criminal Court. Lubanga, 46, who founded and led a militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri district, was arrested last year and accused of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 to kill members of the Lendu ethnic group.

Lubanga has denied the charges. His trial will start on March 31, 2008, the ICC's three-judge Trial Chamber said in a statement, adding that prosecutors must make all the evidence they plan to use available to defence lawyers by December 14.

The ICC ruled in January that there was enough evidence to try Lubanga, a milestone for the institution that was set up in 2002 as the first permanent global war crimes court and is now backed by 104 nations. Lubanga led the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), an ethnic militia now registered as a political party, and is accused of using children to kill his enemies in the ethnic conflict in Ituri between the Hema and Lendu, and in clashes between militia groups vying for control of mines and tax revenues.

The ICC is also in the early stages of prosecuting Germain Katanga, another Congolese militia leader, who is accused of murder, sexual slavery and also using child soldiers. He was taken into custody earlier this year, but pre-trial proceedings last month were hampered by the difficulty of finding interpreters who spoke his native Lingala. Katanga is the second suspect to have been surrendered to the ICC.

The court has indicted two people for war crimes in Darfur, a Sudanese minister and a militia leader, and four leaders of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The prosecutor is also investigating crimes in the Central African Republic.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on International Criminal Court Investigations: Democratic Republic of Congo
More Information on International Criminal Court Investigations


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