Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is committed for trial : first ICC trial to begin soon

FIDH and its member organisations in the Democratic Republic of Cong (DRC) -Association africaine des droits de l’Homme (ASADHO), Ligue des électeurs and Groupe Lotus Kinsagani-, welcome the decision adopted today by the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to confirm the charges against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and refer the case to a Trial Chamber.

"The ICC has given today a first answer to the victims who have been hoping for many years that justice will be done for the crimes committed in the framework of the armed conflict in Ituri", said Sidiki Kaba, President of FIDH.

This case, the first before the ICC, stems from the investigation which the Office of the Prosecutor has undertaken in DRC since June 2004, for crimes committed on Congolese territory since 1 July 2002. Thomas Lubanga, founder and leader of the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) and Commander-in-Chief of the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC), had been surrendered to the ICC in March 2006, following the issuance of an arrest warrant by the Pre-Trial Chamber I in February of the same year.

According to the ICC Statute, a hearing took place from 9 to 28 November 2006 aiming at confirming the charges against Mr Lubanga, namely war crimes consisting in the enlistment, conscription and use of child soldiers.

At this hearing, some victims of the crimes M. Lubanga is charged with were represented by counsel. In fact, the ICC is the first international criminal tribunal where victims can participate in an autonomous way. FIDH underscores the importance of victim participation in the quest for truth and justice. Their legal representatives, who were authorised to make opening and closing statements and to present their observations during and after the hearing, played an essential role to make victims’ voice heard by providing supplementary elements to the accusations brought against Thomas Lubanga.

"The crimes tried by the Court must match the reality of the crimes committed in DRC, corresponding to the suffering which has been brought about. It is imperative that the Prosecutor extends the charges against Thomas Lubanga and its militia, the UPC, and prosecutes other actors in this conflict, which has caused more than three million deaths, as a consequence of a systematic practice of rape, torture, displacement and looting", said Sidiki Kaba [1].

The Presidency of the ICC must now constitute a Trial Chamber, composed of three judges, that will be in charge of trying Mr. Lubanga. FIDH and its member organisations call upon the relevant organs of the Court to continue to promote the rights of victims and to facilitate their access to justice and reparations, as well as to ensure that adequate protective measures are put in place.

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