Arusha, March 16, 2012 (FH) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) this week convicted of war crimes Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga for enlisting and using child soldiers to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002 and 2003, while the prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) continued with presentation of its extra evidence to rebut the defence of alibi for former Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware.

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Lubanga conviction of war crimes: Three judges Wednesday found guilty of war crimes Congolese former militia leader Thomas Lubanga for conscripting and using child soldiers to fight in Ituri (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) from September 1, 2002 to August 13, 2003. They unanimously concluded that Lubanga had participated in a "common plan to build an army" and control Ituri politically and militarily, leading to the conscription of children under 15 into the troops of the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) and its armed wing the Forces Patriotiques de libération du Congo (FPLC). Lubanga was president of the UPC at the time. The United States officials joined with senior executives of European Union and United Nations to welcome the ICC verdict. They indicated that the judgment was a historic moment and an important step in providing justice and accountability to the Congolese people and a milestone warning to all states which use child soldiers. The sentence for Lubanga will be provided later.

  Resumption of Bemba trial: The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba resumed on Tuesday (March 13) with the testimony of the last prosecution witness took. Code-named 36, the 40th witness testified in closed session via video link from Kinshasa. He is claimed to be former insider in the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), the group led by Bemba.


Extradition debate over Habre: On Monday (March 12) Belgium started presenting its arguments for extradition of ex-Chadian President Hissène Habré from Senegal. The former president is wanted in Belgium for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture for acts committed during his rule, from 1982 to 1990. The Foreign Ministry's legal affairs director Paul Rietjens said Senegal, as a signatory to the international Convention against Torture, has an obligation to ensure Habre faces justice. He praised the role of the African Union in pushing for Habré‘s trial, but said its efforts had so far been “in vain”. The hearings are scheduled to last until March 21. Habre has been living in exile in Dakar since 1990.


Continuation of Ngirabatware trial: The prosecution Monday (March 12) continued with presentation of its extra evidence to rebut the defence of libi for ex-Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware, who claims that he was absent in Rwanda at some point in time during genocide in April and May 1994. Two witnesses, out of eight expected to testify in these proceedings have already given their evidence.   FK/NI   © Hirondelle News Agency