See also:
» 13.10.2010 - Wanted Congo warlord "walks freely in Goma"
» 15.02.2010 - Children still recruited into DRC’s war ranks
» 16.10.2009 - UN expert calls for independent investigation into DRC killings
» 09.09.2009 - Commissioner calls for urgent reforms in DRC’s security
» 31.08.2009 - UNICEF head visits children traumatised by DRC war
» 25.08.2009 - UNICEF grants DR Congo $500.000
» 05.03.2009 - UN demobilises 880 children in DRC
» 16.12.2008 - HRW warns against violence on civilians as Great Lakes hunts Kony

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Congo Kinshasa | World
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Congo warlord denies war crimes

afrol News, 26 January - The former Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo has pleaded not guilty before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the use of child soldiers in the five year Congolese civil war.

Mr Lubanga, 46, who founded and led a militia group in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri district, was arrested in 2006 for allegedly recruiting children below 15 to kill members of the rival ethnic group during the country's war between 1998 and 2003.

The ICC Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo said the prosecution would prove that between 1 September 2002 and 13 August 2003, Mr Lubanga recruited children under 15 as soldiers.

"The children still suffer the consequences of Mr Lubanga's crimes. They cannot forget what they suffered, what they saw, what they did. They were nine, 11, 13 years old," the Prosecutor said.

Mr Lubanga's trial was originally scheduled to begin in June 2008. However, the judges of the trial chamber unanimously decided to suspend the trial because the prosecution could not disclose a number of documents collected confidentially from information providers as permitted under the Rome Statute, causing concerns that Mr Lubanga would not receive a fair trial.

The prosecution worked with these information providers to address the judges' concerns, and in November 2008 the trial chamber allowed proceedings to resume.

Mr Lubanga was the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and its armed wing at the time of the alleged crimes, and is still said to have strong support among his Hema community in Ituri.

Mr Lubanga, the first person to have been surrendered to the Court since its inception, his trial will be the first in the history of the Court to see victims participate fully in the proceedings.

In total, the judges have recognised 93 persons as victims for the purpose of participating in the case and the interests of these persons will be defended by eight legal representatives.

The trial of Mr Lubanga is expected to take several months according to the court's communiqué.

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