Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) are considering a prosecution appeal against an order for the release of former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the court. Trial judges ordered Mr. Lubanga’s release two months ago, after they decided that the failure by prosecutors to disclose the identity of an individual, who helped to set up prosecution witnesses, amounted to an abuse of court process.
All the parties to the case – Mr. Lubanga’s defense, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and representatives of victims participating in the trial – have made their submissions on the appeal against Mr. Lubanga’s release. This has set the stage for the consideration of two appeals, one against the stay of proceedings in the trial and another against Mr. Lubanga’s release.
Here is a timeline of events in Mr. Lubanga’s trial:
January 12, 2006: The prosecution applies for an arrest warrant for Mr. Lubanga, the alleged former head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), to be tried for the war crimes of conscripting, enlisting and using child soldiers in armed conflict.
February 10, 2006: Judges at the ICC issue a warrant of arrest under seal.
March 17, 2006: Warrant of arrest for Mr. Lubanga unsealed.
March 17, 2006: Following his arrest by the Congo government (which ratified the Rome Statute that formed the ICC on April 11, 2002) Mr. Lubanga is transferred to the court’s Detention Center in The Hague.
March 20, 2006: Mr. Lubanga makes his first appearance before Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC.
January 29, 2007: Judges confirm the charges against Mr. Lubanga, namely “enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the FPLC (Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) and using them to participate actively in hostilities.”
June 13, 2008: Trial judges issued a first stay of proceedings against Mr. Lubanga, arguing that it was impossible for the trial to be fair because the ICC Prosecutor had not disclosed to the Defense, or availed to judges, important potentially exculpatory evidence. The trial had earlier been scheduled to start on March 31, 2008.
July 2, 2008: Trial judges order Mr. Lubanga’s unconditional release but the decision is not effected following a prosecution appeal.
October 21, 2008: Appeals judges uphold the decision to stay the proceedings, but reverse the decision to release Mr. Lubanga.
November 18, 2008: Trial judges lift the stay of proceedings against Mr. Lubanga, after determining that the reasons for the suspension had “fallen away.”
January 26, 2009: The trial opens with statements from the Prosecutor, Mr. Lubanga’s defense, and legal representatives of victims participating in the trial.
July 14, 2009: The prosecution closes its case after calling 28 witnesses, three of them categorized as “expert witnesses.”
July 14, 2009: Following an appeal by victims, trial judges rule that it was possible to add new charges to those Mr. Lubanga faced.
December 8, 2009: Appeals judges ruled that charges of sexual slavery and cruel treatment did not have the possibility of being added to the case against Mr. Lubanga, paving the way for the resumption of the trial.
January 12, 2010: The first of three participating victims who will also give evidence takes the witness stand.
January 27, 2010: Defense case opens with Mr. Lubanga’s attorneys declaring that they would produce evidence to show that agents of the Office of The Prosecutor helped to fabricate the testimony of several prosecution witnesses.
July 8, 2010: Trial judges order a second stay of proceedings in the trial, pointing out that there had been an abuse of court process and that a fair trial for Mr. Lubanga was not possible under the prevailing circumstances.
July 15, 2010: Trial judges order Mr. Lubanga’s release, unless prosecutors appeal the release order within five days.
July 16, 2010: Prosecutors ask appeals judges to overturn a trial chamber order for the release of Mr. Lubanga, stating that he might flee if he were released.
July 23, 2010: Appeals judges rule that Mr. Lubanga remains in ICC detention pending the final decision on the prosecution’s appeal against his release.
August 23, 2010: After appeals judges grant them permission to take part in the prosecution’s appeal, participating victims state that releasing Mr. Lubanga would put their lives at risk.
August 27, 2010: Mr. Lubanga’s defense attorneys state in a filing to appeals judges that the stay of proceedings imposed by trial judges was “irreversible.”