Congo Militia Leader Pleads Not Guilty to Training Child Soldiers
A militia leader from the Congo faces charges of training child soldiers as the first permanent war crimes tribunal begins.
Thomas Lubanga was the former head of the Union of Congolese Patriots and is accused of training children to kill and pillage as part of the armed wing of the UPC in 2002 and 2003. He pled not guilty to the charges after being arrested in 2005.
The UPC "recruited and trained hundreds of children to kill, pillage and rape", the chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said in an opening address.
"Hundreds of children still suffer the consequences of Lubanga's crimes. They cannot forget what they suffered, what they did, what they saw.
"They cannot forget the beatings they suffered, they cannot forget the terror they felt and the terror they inflicted.
As the world focused on the inauguration of America's first black president and celebrated an important milestone in the ongoing struggle for racial equality, recent developments across the Atlantic represent significant progress in a related global campaign to end impunity for mass crimes.
There are a number of temporary international criminal courts in operation, which so far had sprung up in response to atrocities. This permanent court is designed to be in place should the need arise.
_International Criminal Court: The world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. Set up in 2002 and headquartered in The Hague, its first trial starts on Jan. 26 against Thomas Lubanga, a former Congolese militia leader charged with using child soldiers. The court has four suspects in custody, all of them from Congo. Separately, ICC prosecutors have filed genocide charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir over mass killings and rapes in Darfur province. Judges at the court are expected to decide shortly whether evidence merits a warrant for his arrest.
_Special Court for Sierra Leone: Set up in 2002 and headquartered in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has convicted several rebel leaders for involvement in atrocities during the country's 1991-2002 civil war. Top suspect: former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Prosecutors are close to wrapping up their case that he masterminded atrocities in Sierra Leone. Taylor is being tried in The Hague because of fears that holding the trial in Freetown could re-ignite violence there.