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ICC appeals chamber suspends release of Congo militia leader Lubanga

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday suspended [order, PDF; press release] an order issued last week [press release; JURIST report] directing the release of accused Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [case materials; JURIST news archive]. The court ordered Lubanga's release after previously ordering a stay [JURIST report] in the proceedings until the prosecution complied with a directive to provide certain information to the defense. The prosecution appealed the decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] to release Lubanga, arguing that it was unlikely he would be able to be located and re-detained upon resumption of the trial. The court agreed with the prosecution's argument, ruling that:

[A]n immediate implementation of the order to release [Lubanga] could render the resumption of the trial uncertain, should the Appeals Chamber later find in favour of the Prosecutor's appeals against the Decision to Stay Proceedings and the Impugned Decision. In these circumstances, his release could potentially defeat the purpose of the present appeal and that of the appeal against the Decision to Stay Proceedings, and the granting of suspensive effect is therefore appropriate.
Lubanga will remain in ICC custody until the appeals chamber rules on the suspension of the trial.

Lubanga is accused of war crimes for allegedly recruiting child soldiers to fight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002-2003. His trial began in January 2009 but was halted soon after when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST report] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] last July after presenting 22 weeks of testimony. Lubanga maintains he is innocent [JURIST report] of the charges against him. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC, formed in 2002, after he was taken into custody [JURIST report] in March 2006.

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