[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Monday announced it has imposed an indefinite stay [order, PDF; press release] on the war crimes trial of Congolese ex-militia leader Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile]. The court said it may consider releasing Lubanga because prosecutorial misconduct could deny him a fair trial; the court accused the prosecution of using confidentiality agreements to withhold possible exonerating evidence:
Although the Chamber has no doubt that this stay of proceedings is necessary, it has nonetheless imposed it with great reluctance, not least because it means the Court will not make a decision on issues which are of significance to the international community, the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the victims and the accused himself. When crimes, particularly of a grave nature, are alleged it is necessary for justice that, whenever possible, a final determination is made as to the guilt or innocence of the accused… The judges are acutely aware that by staying these proceedings the victims have, in this sense, been excluded from justice.
The court will next convene to consider releasing Lumbanga on June 24. AP has more.
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.