Friday, July 16, 2010

War Crimes: ICC orders release of notorious Congolese warlord

UN -After suspending the case against a Congolese warlord on trial for allegedly enlisting child soldiers, the International Criminal Court (ICC) today ordered his release.

Last week, the ICC’s trial chamber suspended proceedings against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri region of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), saying that prosecutors have refused orders to disclose information to his defence.

Mr. Lubanga faces two counts of war crimes: conscripting and enlisting child soldiers into the military wing of his group and then using them to participate in hostilities between September 2002 and August 2003. His trial began at The Hague-based ICC last January.

The trial chamber ordered to stay the proceedings last week, “considering that the fair trial of the accused is no longer possible due to non-implementation of the Chamber’s orders by the Prosecution.”

The ICC judges said today that defendants cannot be held in preventative custody on a speculative basis, namely that the proceedings may resume at some point in the future.

But the order will not be implemented for five days, giving the prosecution time to appeal.

The ICC is a permanent court and tries people accused of the most serious international offences, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Other than the DRC, the ICC currently has investigations open in four situations: the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, northern Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Kenya.