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ICC: Congolese national arrested for war crimes

Congolese national arrested for war crimes in first transfer to UN-backed court

A Congolese national accused of conscripting child soldiers has become the first defendant arrested for trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC) established to ensure the prosecution of individuals committing war crimes, a United Nations spokesman said today.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the alleged founder and leader of the group known as Union des Patriotes Congolais, was transferred by the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under the international agreement known the Rome Statute, which established the court with its entry into force in July 2002.

The 18 judges of the ICC have jurisdiction over the most serious international crimes, including genocide, mass murder, enslavement, rape, torture and war crimes, and the Court only steps in when countries themselves are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute. States as well as the UN Security Council can refer situations to the ICC for investigation.

The ICC Prosecutor initiated investigations in the DRC in 2004 after the Congolese Government referred the situation in that country to the Court, which issued a warrant of arrest against Mr. Lubanga on 10 February, finding that there were reasonable grounds to believe he had conscripted children under the age of 15 for active participation in hostilities, a war crime.

The Congolese authorities then arrested him in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC.

Because the ICC’s jurisdiction only covers crimes committed after its establishment, it issued its first warrants of arrest in July 2005 against five leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), also accused of conscripting child soldiers and other crimes in Uganda.

An ongoing investigation is also focussing on the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region, in which untold thousands have died and millions have been terrorized and displaced, and which was referred to the ICC Prosecutor by the UN Security Council in March 2005.

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