8 October 2010 The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today reversed an earlier decision to suspend the case against a notorious Congolese warlord, ruling that his trial will resume.
In July, the Court’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 had refused orders to disclose information to his defence. It also ordered the warlord’s release.
Today, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, who presided over the appeals, said that it is undisputed that the prosecution did not divulge certain information.
But he said that the trial chamber erred by immediately ordering the proceedings to stop without first imposing sanctions to ensure prosecutors complied with its orders.
“Sanctions are a tool for Chambers to maintain control of proceedings within the trial framework and to safeguard a fair trial without having to have recourse to the drastic remedy of staying proceedings,” Judge Song stressed.
Mr. Lubanga Dyilo, whose trial at The Hague-based ICC began last January, stands accused of having committed, as co-perpetrator, war crimes of enlisting and conscripting of children under the age of 15 into the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri district between September 2002 and August 2003.
The case was referred to the ICC by the Congolese Government in April 2004. Other suspects standing trial at the ICC for alleged offences committed within the context of the DRC conflict are Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. Bosco Ntaganda has been indicted but remains at large. ICC investigations in the DRC are ongoing.
In a statement issued after the ruling, the Office of the Prosecutor for the ICC welcomed the decision to lift the stay of proceedings and not release Mr. Lubanga.
“Victims can rest assured that his trial will be continued, and that his criminal responsibility will be decided by the judges at the conclusion of a fair trial,” the statement said.
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