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Prosecutor Suggests Limits to Lubanga’s Address to Appeals Judges

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has asked judges to restrict the issues that Thomas Lubanga may speak about when he addresses the court at the closure of his appeals process.

Mr. Lubanga, who was convicted in March 2012 over the use of child soldiers, is scheduled to address the court on May 20 at the conclusion of the appeals hearing on his conviction and 14-year jail sentence. In the order scheduling the appeals hearing, judges did not specify the exact nature of Mr. Lubanga’s oral statement before the chamber.

However, in a May 2 submission, the prosecutor suggests that Mr. Lubanga’s personal address should not “stray” into areas that would ordinarily fall within the role of his defense lawyers. She said Mr. Lubanga should not speak about his conviction, his sentence, or the issues on appeal.

“In the event that he were to do so, the prosecution respectfully requests that it be allowed the opportunity to respond on any such matters he raises, to the extent they have not been fully responded to already during the course of the hearing,” said Ms. Bensouda.

The prosecutor suggested that the appeals chamber adopts an approach similar to that of the trial chamber, which allowed Mr. Lubanga to make an unsworn oral statement at the end of his trial but barred him from raising any “significant consequential matters.”

Mr. Lubanga, who has been in court’s custody since March 2006, did not testify in his own defense. However, at his sentencing hearing he made a statement in which he denied the charges against him.

He said his role in the armed conflict in Congo’s Ituri province during 2002 and 2003 was that of a peacemaker not a warmonger.  “I never could have stooped to such a low level to commit an act which is contrary to all values that are dear to me,” said Mr. Lubanga.

Trial judges convicted Mr. Lubanga over the conscription, enlistment, and use of children under 15 years in armed conflict while he served as president of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).

At the appeals hearing scheduled for May 19 and 20, two witnesses will testify for Mr. Lubanga, while parties and participants to the trial will make oral submissions and observations before appeals judges. The prosecution has appealed for Mr. Lubanga’s 14-year sentence to be increased.