ICC orders release of Congo militia leader Lubanga, pending appeal

[JURIST] Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Thursday ordered the release [press release] of accused Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [case materials; JURIST news archive]. The announcement comes one week after the court suspended [press release; JURIST report] Lubanga's trial, stating that the trial could not proceed until the prosecution obeyed the judge's orders to disclose specific information to the defense. In ordering Lubanga's release, the ICC said that because the trial had been suspended, Lubanga could not be held indefinitely based on the assumption that his trial might resume at some point in the future. Lubanga's trial was suspended on the basis that he could not receive a fair trial until the defense received information about the identity of a witness known as "intermediary 143." The court previously indicated that the prosecution might be sanctioned under Article 71 of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] for not complying with the court's ruling, but the court stated Thursday that sanctions will not be issued at this time. During its session, the court also granted the prosecutions leave to appeal the court's decision to stay the proceedings. Lubanga will remain in custody pending an appeal of the court's decision ordering his release.

Lubanga is accused of war crimes for allegedly recruiting child soldiers to fight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002-2003. His trial began in January 2009 but was halted soon after when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST report] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] last July after presenting 22 weeks of testimony. Lubanga maintains he is innocent [JURIST report] of the charges against him. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC, formed in 2002, after he was taken into custody [JURIST report] in March 2006.

 

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