ICC releases Congolese warlord
The International Criminal Court has ordered the release of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who used child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's civil war.world Updated: Jul 16, 2010 11:49 IST
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ordered the release of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who used child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's civil war.
Last week, proceedings against Lubanga were suspended after the defense complained that prosecution led by Argentinean lawyer Luis Moreno-Ocampo was not disclosing information by not identifying a key witness.
The ICC trial chamber judges said on Thursday that Lubanga "an accused cannot be held in preventative custody on a speculative basis, namely that at some stage in the future the proceedings may be resurrected".
The Prosecutor has failed to implement two of the Chamber's orders; those of July seven. For the reasons set out in the decision imposing the stay, this constituted a deliberate and in our judgement, wholly unjustified refusal to comply with the directions of the Court", Judge Fulford said.
"It is fair that the issue of sanctions should await the outcome of the appeal," he added.
Lubanga, the former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots from 1999 to 2003, operated in the Ituri region of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
He has been charged with war crimes for recruiting and using child soldiers in inter-ethnic conflict in Congo's Ituri Province.
Lubanga, who surrendered in 2006, was the first person to go on trial at the ICC. He has pleaded not guilty.
The hearings, which began in January 2009, have been bogged down by procedural irregularities.
Several witnesses asked for special protection during the trial since the Ituri region is still a dangerous place.
The prosecution has five days to appeal the decision.
The court also noted that before the order releasing Lubanga could be implemented, arrangements would have to be made for his transfer to a country that would receive him.
The ICC is presently dealing with situations in four countries, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic.
In 2009, the ICC issued its first arrest warrant for a sitting head-of-state, Sudanese President Omar-al Bashir, for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict. This week, it added genocide to the charges against Bashir.
In April, the judges of The Hague based ICC, gave Moreno-Ocampo the green signal for investigating the ethnic violence that erupted after the disputed elections in Kenya, two years ago.