Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) wrapped up its presentation of evidence against a Congolese warlord accused of recruiting child soldiers, the first suspect taken into custody by the International Criminal Court. The case marks the first time in the history of international law to see the active participation of victims in the proceedings, including child combatants.
He faces two counts of war crimes: conscripting and enlisting child soldiers into the military wing of his group and then using them to participate in hostilities between September 2002 and August 2003. Over the course of 22 weeks, 28 witnesses – including three experts – testified, all of whom were cross-examined by the defence. Nearly all of the prosecution’s witnesses were granted protective measures, including voice and facial distortion and the use of pseudonyms. A psychologist sat in during the proceedings to support and monitor witnesses.
Mr. Lubanga, who surrendered to the ICC in March 2006, and his defense team were able to see all of the witnesses as they gave their testimony, but some required further special measures to avoid direct eye contact with the accused.
Established by the Rome Statute of 1998, the ICC can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed after July 2002. The UN Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor, or a State Party to the Court can initiate any proceedings. The ICC will act only when countries themselves are "unwilling or unable" to investigate or prosecute.