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Lubanga Judgment to be Delivered in English

The judgment in the trial of Congolese political leader Thomas Lubanga at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be handed down first in English and later in French, according to a decision judges reached on Tuesday.

At a status conference, judges today informed parties to the trial that the gap between the judgment being ready in English and the completion of its French translation thereafter could be up to four months.

“It is likely that the decision in English will be ready to be issued at the turn of the New Year. However, there is a real risk that the French translation will not be ready until April next year,” said Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford.

The judges asked parties to the trial whether to issue the trial verdict in English first while waiting for the completion of the French translation or to issue both versions together. In addition, judges talked about the implications of the two alternatives with regard to the stages that follow the judgment. As a requirement under Rule 150 of the Rules and Procedures of the Court, an appeal to a decision by the chamber has to filed no later than 30 days after notification of the decision.

The prosecution and lawyers representing victims in the trial submitted that they would be happy for the right of appeal to commence upon the issuance of the French version of the judgement and for sentencing or release to go ahead after notification of the decision in English. Mr. Lubanga’s defense only agreed with the prosecution in part. The defense submitted that the subsequent stage of the trial judgment – release or sentencing of the accused and reparations to victims – should not take place until after the appeals chamber had made a ruling.

Judge Fulford stated that the chamber would announce its decision on the timing of the trial verdict and subsequent procedures in due course. The two other judges in the trial are Elizabeth Odio Benito and René Blattmann.

Mr. Lubanga, whom prosecutors allege was the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), is accused of enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers in the inter-ethnic conflict in the Congolese province of Ituri during 2002 and 2003. He has been in the court’s detention since March 2006, and his trial commenced in January 2009.

Meanwhile, the chamber this afternoon ruled on a request by the defense to visit ‘Witness 19′ on “humanitarian grounds.” This witness testified for the defense last March and April. After his testimony, he expressed concerns regarding his safety and dignity during his transportation from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to The Hague-based court.

As a result, ‘Witness 19’ remained detained at Scheveningen – the court’s detention center pending removal to the DRC. He is currently reported as “unwell,” and has applied to remain on Dutch territory, claiming he would be unsafe if he were returned to the Congolese jail he is awaiting trial for offenses related to armed conflict.

The court’s registry opposed the defense’s request to visit ‘Witness 19’ during the course of their regular visits to see Mr. Lubanga at the detention center, stating that only inspection authorities “have the right to carry out humanitarian visits” and that “it is up to the detained person himself to refer the case to competent persons.”

Pursuant to Article 68 of the Rome Statute under which the court is obliged to protect the physical and psychological well being of witnesses, the chamber ruled it “necessary and appropriate” for members of the defense team to meet with ‘Witness 19.’ Judge Fulford added that the meetings should not be “limited artificially” by way of time or number of visits.