< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: World Court Takes First Case

Monday, January 29, 2007

World Court Takes First Case

From the Washington Post:

The International Criminal Court ruled Monday that Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, charged with recruiting child soldiers as young as 10 and sending them into battle, will be the first defendant to face trial at the newly established court.

At a public hearing in The Hague, presiding Judge Claude Jorda announced that evidence presented by prosecutors was sufficient to "establish strong grounds to believe" that Lubanga was responsible "for war crimes consisting of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15."

Lubanga, 46, led a faction in the civil war that broke out in Congo in 1998, drawing in forces from numerous neighboring countries. He was arrested in Kinshasa in March 2005 and moved to a high-security detention facility near the Dutch North Sea coast the following year. A father of seven, he holds a degree in psychology.

Jorda said that children were "led to kill" in clashes between ethnic Hema and Lendu people in the Ituri region, and that some fighters under age 15 lost their lives. Many of the underage soldiers were systematically drugged to numb them against the fear of warfare, he said.

Three boys and three girls, one only 10 years old when Congo's civil war broke out, were among those interviewed in preparing the case.

Backed by 104 countries, the International Criminal Court is meant to replace the current system of ad hoc courts prosecuting war crimes suspects in specific conflicts, such as the ethnic wars in the former Yugoslavia. The United States has declined to join, saying the court's proceedings are likely to be politicized and result in unjust prosecution of Americans.

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