- Title: NETHERLANDS/FILE: ICC to decide on charges against Congo militia leader Lubanga
- Date: 9th November 2006
- Summary: (BN09) THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS (NOVEMBER 9, 2006) (REUTERS) ARRIVAL OF PRISON VAN AT THE ICC VAN DRIVES BEHIND GATE
- Embargoed: 24th November 2006 12:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA5TGOK4IV549K6SH9B3UFOEM81
- Story Text: The International Criminal Court opened a hearing on Thursday (November 9) to determine if there is enough evidence to press charges against Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga in the court's first-ever trial.
Lubanga, the founder and leader of one of the most dangerous militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo's lawless northeastern district of Ituri, is accused of enlisting child soldiers to fight.
The prosecutors' indictment says the children, who often joined the militia because of their desperate need for food or desire to avenge their murdered families, were subject to systematic military training and severe discipline.
Commanders urged them to kill members of the Lendu ethnic group in Ituri without instructing them to differentiate between soldiers and civilians, prosecutors said.
The confirmation hearing is a necessary procedural step before the case can be brought to trial. The Court in The Hague will examine the prosecutors' evidence, based on the cases of a representative six child soldiers.
Representatives of the victims attended the hearing.
"This is not the trial," said Presiding Judge Claude Jorda. "It is to determine if there are reasonable grounds for the charges ... it is up to the prosecution to prove what it asserts," he added.
Lubanga, who was delivered to the court in March, attended the hearing flanked by two security men. He has denied the charges. The 45-year-old, dressed in traditional African garb, listened intently.
Asked by Jorda about the conditions in the detention centre Lubanga said: "I'd say things are going more or less well, being in prison ... is a source of frustration but I am keeping my morale up."
The charges against Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), an ethnic militia now registered as a political party, relate to the period between July 2002 and December 2003, although the war in the Congo began in 1998.
Up to 30,000 children were associated with the DRC's armed groups during the height of the war, according to estimates.
Ituri has been a bloody corner of Congo where ethnic violence between the Hema and Lendu and clashes between militia groups vying for control of mines and taxation have killed 60,000 people since 1999.
Closing statements in Lubanga's case are scheduled for Nov. 28 after which the judges have 60 days to decide if the case will go to trial.
Court registrar Bruno Cathala said apart from confirming the charges or throwing out the case, the judges could also adjourn the hearing and request further information, or ask the prosecutor to consider amending a charge.
The ICC was set up as the first permanent global war crimes court in 2002 to try individuals, and Lubanga was the first suspect to be delivered into its custody.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None