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Lubanga Trial Takes Break

The war crimes trial of former Congolese leader Thomas Lubanga today took a break for the spring judicial recess, and is scheduled to resume on April 21, 2010.

The trial – the first at the International Criminal Court (ICC) – resumed on January 7, 2010 after a six month break after the prosecution rested its case, with testimony from three victims and two expert witnesses whose testimony was requested by the judges.  The defense case started January 27, 2010. Since then, 13 defense witnesses have testified, along with a former prosecution witness who testified briefly last June and confessed to have told prosecution investigators lies which were allegedly fabricated by an intermediary of the ICC’s prosecution investigators.

Mr. Lubanga is accused of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia group, and using them to participate actively in armed conflict between September 2002 and August 2003.

Most of the defense witnesses who have given parts of their testimony in public have said intermediaries of ICC prosecutors bribed and coached witnesses, some of whom later testified for the prosecution. The defense has said it will ask judges to discontinue the case against Mr. Lubanga after presenting 16 witnesses on the grounds of abuse of process. The majority of defense witnesses has testified in closed session with protective measures such as face and voice distortion.

The prosecution case opened on January 26, 2009 and rested on July 14, 2009. Over the course of 22 weeks and during 74 days of hearings, the trial heard 28 witnesses called by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), including three experts. The Chamber called two additional experts to testify. Twenty five witnesses had protective measures during this phase of the trial.