Sunday, February 1, 2009
Legal history was made in the Netherlands when the International Criminal Court put on trial its first suspect, Thomas Lubango Dyilo, a Congolese warlord accused of recruiting child soldiers. The Lubango case represents the first proceedings of the International Criminal Court as well as the first trial in international law where victims have a right to participate in the proceedings.
Mr. Lubanga, the founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri region of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), entered a plea of not guilty. He is accused of war crimes, including conscripting and enlisting child soldiers and then using them in hostilities between September 2002 and August 2003. The International Criminal Court imposed a stay of proceedings in June 2008 because the prosecution failed to disclose certain documents that had been obtained the documents under conditions of confidentiality. But in November 2008 the ICC reversed that decision because the reasons for the stay had “fallen away.”
As this trial moves forward attention must turn to encouraging additional countries to become parties to the ICC. The United States signed the treaty establishing the court but "unsigned" the treaty and has not become a party (because of unsupported fears that U.S. soldiers would be brought before the International Criminal Court). Hopefully the start of this trial will provide some momentum toward U.S. ratification of the treaty. Click here for more information about the International Criminal Court.