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ICC ends first war crimes trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Wednesday concluded its first war crimes trial after two years. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) militia leader Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile] was taken into ICC custody in March 2006, becoming the first DRC war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC [JURIST reports]. Lubanga is charged [JURIST report] with enlisting child soldiers in his militia, which is believed to have committed large-scale human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district. His trial began in January 2009 after being delayed for evidentiary reasons and was halted soon after when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST reports] 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. The prosecution and defense lawyers will present closing arguments [Reuters report] later this week, followed by deliberation by a three-judge panel. A verdict will likely be handed down in early 2012.

The ICC has also been involved with prosecutorial aspects of the Libya conflict [JURIST backgrounder], which has been ongoing since February. ICC representatives were reportedly meeting [JURIST report] Monday with Libyan rebels to discuss turning over the son of Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, to the court for prosecution. The ICC issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Muammar, Saif and Muammar's brother-in-law Abdullah al-Sanussi in June on charges of crimes against humanity. On the other hand, the ICC has been criticized for lack of involvement with respect to other war crimes allegations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged the UN Security Council last week to refer Syria to the ICC to investigate the violent suppression [JURIST report] of anti-government protests.

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