Monday, January 29, 2007


Lubanga denies three war crimes charges. The only permanent international war crimes court is due to rule on whether to put a Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader on trial.
Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) are to decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with charges against Thomas Lubanga.
Prosecutors allege that children as young as 10 were forced to fight for him. He denies war crimes charges.
If the judges proceed, it would be the first trial at The Hague-based ICC.
The five-year DR Congo conflict led to an estimated four million deaths.
The US strongly opposed the creation of the ICC, fearing the political prosecution of its soldiers.
The ICC was designed to end the need for the various ad hoc war crimes courts which have recently been established, including the chambers created to deal with war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda.
Mr Lubanga, 45, led the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia in DR Congo's north-eastern Ituri district, where fighting continued long after the official end of the five-year war in 2003.
Death threats
"Lubanga made children train to kill, Lubanga made them kill and Lubanga let the children die... in hostilities," prosecution lawyer Ekkehard Withopf told the court during a hearing last November.
The prosecution says children as young as 10 were snatched as they walked to school and forced to fight for Mr Lubanga's ethnic Hema militia against their Lendu rivals.

Profile: Thomas Lubanga

The child soldiers were later instructed "to kill all Lendu including men, women and children", a prosecution statement says, based on testimony from six children.
His lawyers say he was trying to end the conflict and is being punished by the international community for refusing to give mining concessions in areas he controlled to foreign firms.
Referring to his enemies, he once told UN peacekeepers: "Those who have committed genocide or massacres have to be punished."
The BBC's Mark Doyle says the conflict in Ituri manifests itself as an ethnic war, but its root cause is the criminal mining of the region's gold and other minerals.
Lobby group Human Rights Watch says some 60,000 civilians have been slaughtered in Ituri province by various militias.
It calls for them all to be investigated, along with government officials from DR Congo and others who may be implicated from neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.


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