14 July 2009 The prosecution wrapped up its presentation of evidence against a Congolese warlord accused of recruiting child soldiers, the first suspect taken into custody by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri region of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), marks the first in the history of international law to see the active participation of victims in the proceedings, including child combatants.
He 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.
Over the course of 22 weeks, 28 witnesses – including three experts – testified, all of whom were cross-examined by the defence.
Nearly all of the prosecution’s witnesses were granted protective measures, including voice and facial distortion and the use of pseudonyms. A psychologist sat in during the proceedings to support and monitor witnesses.
Mr. Lubanga, who surrendered to the ICC in March 2006, and his defence team were able to see all of the witnesses as they gave their testimony, but some required further special measures to avoid direct eye contact with the accused.
Nearly 100 victims have been authorized to take part in the trial, which began on 26 January, to date.
Established by the Rome Statute of 1998, the ICC can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002. The UN Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor or a State Party to the Court can initiate any proceedings, and the ICC only acts when countries themselves are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute.
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