Congo ex-militia leader trial can proceed fairly: ICC Chief Prosecutor petition

[JURIST] The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] filed a petition [PDF text] Monday asking the court not to consider releasing suspected war criminal Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile]. The petition also seeks leave from the court to appeal the ICC's June 16 decision to indefinitely stay [order, PDF; JURIST report] the proceedings in Lubanga's case. The ICC had granted the stay after finding that the prosecution had abused confidentiality agreements making possibly exculpatory information inaccessible to the court and Lubanga's defense lawyers. In its petition, the prosecution characterized the court's earlier decision as "premature" and based on a misunderstanding of the prosecutor's duties and responsibilities. Challenging the decision, the prosecutor wrote:

a stay of proceedings is an exceptional measure of last resort, which, as the Appeals Chamber has warned, must be used "sparingly". Staying proceedings is appropriate only where other remedies have been exhausted, or are simply not available. The circumstances of the instant case, including the availability of alternative evidence, the modest exonerating value of the undisclosed material and the availability of different options for the Chamber to explore, did not justify such a drastic remedy, as a result of which, as the Chamber acknowledged, "the victims have been excluded from justice". In this case, and contrary to the Trial Chamber's assessment, a fair trial remained possible at all times.
Reuters has more.

Once the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], Lubanga is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report; BBC report] in his militia, which is believed to have committed large-scale human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006. Lubanga's long-delayed trial [JURIST report] was scheduled to be the ICC's first since its creation in 2002.

6/25/08 The Court announced [ICC press release] later Tuesday that it would not consider releasing Lubanga until after hearing the prosecution's appeal. It gave both the prosecution and Lubanga's defense until Friday to file submissions regarding the appeal and plans to make a ruling on it next week.


 

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