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ICC begins trial for Congolese nationals accused of war crimes

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] at The Hague began proceedings [press release] on Tuesday for the trial of two Congolese nationals [ICC backgrounder] believed to be responsible for the killings of more than 200 men, women, and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2003. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui [ICC profiles] both pleaded not guilty to three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes, including murder, sexual slavery, pillage, and the use of child soldiers. Katanga, a former commander in the Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI), and Ngudjolo Chui, a former commander in the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) [IRIN backgrounders], allegedly led two groups of child soldiers and militia in the attack against the village of Bogoro. Bogoro is located in the DRC's mineral-rich Ituri province, which has caused the territory to be an ongoing point of contention between Congolese militias. The prosecution will present 26 witnesses, 21 of whom will hide their identities due to ongoing hostility in the DRC. Lawyers for over 300 victims, including child soldiers, will also take part in the trial.

This trial is only the ICC's second case since its formation since 2002. The first trial began in January for the Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, whose militia base in Bogoro was the object of the 2003 attack. Lubanga [Al-Jazeera backgrounder] stands accused of war crimes for allegedly recruiting child soldiers to fight in the DRC in 2002-2003. Lubanga's trial was halted soon after it began when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST report] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. The prosecution has since concluded its case [JURIST report] and defense proceedings were recently postponed [press release] from their original date in October. Lubanga maintains he is innocent [JURIST report] of the charges against him.

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