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Now Bemba Hearing Delays Resumption of Lubanga Trial

Thomas Lubanga’s trial, which has been on a break since early this month, did not resume today as planned. Instead, it will restart this Thursday, April 29, 2010.

The trial had been scheduled to resume last week following the end of the spring judicial recess, but disruptions to flights in Europe meant that many people involved in the trial were unable to return to The Hague in time.

It will not be possible this Tuesday and Wednesday for the Lubanga trial to sit as two of the judges in the trial will be engaged in a pre-trial hearing in the case against Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former Congolese rebel leader and vice president, whose own trial is scheduled to kick off on July 5, 2010. Judge Adrian Fulford is the presiding judge for both the trials of Mr. Lubanga and Mr. Bemba, while Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito sits on both trials.

Mr. Lubanga, who first appeared in court at The Hague on March 20, 2006, is the first person to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC). His trial started on January 26, 2009. According to ICC prosecutors, Mr. Lubanga was the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).

Prosecutors also charge that Mr. Lubanga was the commander-in-chief of the FPLC from September 2002 to the end of 2003, and that he committed the war crimes of recruiting and using child soldiers during this time.

Like Mr. Lubanga, Mr. Bemba is a Congolese national. But the crimes he is accused of were allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) from around October 26, 2002 to March 15, 2003. Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba is criminally responsible for having acted as a military commander when his troops alleged committed two crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging).

On February 25, 2010, Mr. Bemba’s defense submitted a challenge to the admissibility of the charges against him on the grounds of respecting the complementarity between the work of the ICC and of the authorities in the CAR, the lack of the requisite level of gravity, and the alleged abuse of process in the case against him.