ICC orders release of Congo ex-militia leader due to prosecutorial misconduct

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Wednesday ordered the release [decision, PDF; press release] of Congolese ex-militia leader Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile] after finding that past prosecutorial misconduct would prevent him from having a fair trial. The release order will go into effect in five days, barring an appeal by prosecutors and assuming the completion of transfer arrangements with a "state that is obliged to receive him." The court explained:

[T]he Chamber has concluded that the logical - indeed the inevitable - consequence of the Decision is that the only correct course is to order the release of the accused, because, consistent with the Decision and on the basis of the available information, a fair trial of the accused is impossible, and the entire justification for his detention has been removed. It would be unlawful for the Chamber to order him to remain in what, in reality, would be preventative detention or to impose conditional release.
Last month, the ICC imposed an indefinite stay [order, PDF; JURIST report] on Lubanga's war crimes trial after it accused the prosecution of using confidentiality agreements to withhold possible exonerating evidence. The Chief Prosecutor later filed a petition [PDF text] asking the court not to consider releasing Lubanga and seeking leave to appeal the indefinite stay. On Wednesday, the ICC granted leave to appeal [decision, PDF].

Once the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], Lubanga is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report; BBC report] in his militia, which is believed to have committed large-scale human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006. Lubanga's long-delayed trial [JURIST report] was scheduled to be the ICC's first since its creation in 2002.


 

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