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ICC prosecutors urge war crimes trial for Congo militia leader

[JURIST] Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court [official website] urged the court Tuesday to confirm war crimes charges [indictment, PDF] against Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga [Trial Watch backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Lubanga, founder of the militant Union of Patriotic Congolese [Global Security backgrounder], could be the first war crimes suspect to be tried by the ICC since it opened in 2002. He is accused of enlisting child soldiers [BBC report] in the Democratic Republic of Congo's violence-plagued Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. Judges presiding over Lubanga's confirmation of charges hearing [press release; JURIST report], which ended Tuesday, must decide by January 29 whether the case should proceed to trial, be dismissed, or whether prosecutors must present further evidence or amend the charges.

Lubanga's defense lawyer maintained his client's innocence during closing statements Tuesday and said that the prosecution had withheld evidence necessary to prepare a full defense. Representatives of Lubanga's alleged witnesses also addressed the court, calling for justice for the child soldiers. Chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said last week that if the charges against Lubanga are confirmed, the court could hold its first formal trial in 2007 [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

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