Friday, November 10, 2006

DRC: ICC 'pre-trial' hearing of Ituri militia leader

From a recent Human Rights Watch press release:
"Under rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, in ICC custody since March 2006, the Union des Patriotes Congolaises committed serious crimes in Ituri, including murder, torture, rape and mutilation of civilians. "

[Lubanga with underage cannon fodder]

"For example, UPC combatants under the leadership of Lubanga slaughtered at least 800 civilians on the basis of their ethnicity in the gold mining region of Mongbwalu between November 2002 and June 2003. More than 60,000 civilians have been slaughtered by armed groups in Ituri since the beginning of the conflict, according to the UN."

Human Rights Watch further reports that Lubanga's case will be considered for sufficient evidence before passing to trial, although the only current charges against him concern the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Numerous other rebel leaders, active in Ituri and elsewhere, have much blood on their hands but have been given military posts in the newly integrated national army as a means of securing the cessation of hostilities.

Impunity for rebel leaders is a useful bargaining tool when trying to pacify on the cheap, as the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Congo is learning. Lubanga was handed over to the ICC as a 'stick' to encourage other rebels to concede to ceasefire terms, though this is not working out as planned. For victims and their families, an ICC trial of Lubanga on the basis of child soldiers is mere theatre, a miniscule comfort given the scale of carnage associated with this war. Yet this possibility for justice in the Hague is the only light in Congo's legal darkness, whose judiciary system is non-existent and revenge the only form of justice available to victims today.

Read the ICC press release here.

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