Judges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague began hearing evidence for the first time, as prosecutors began laying out their case against a Congolese militia leader. Thomas Lubanga is accused of recruiting children to fight a brutal war in the northeast of the country. For VOA, Lauren Comiteau is following the confirmation proceedings and has more from Amsterdam.
Dressed in bright blue traditional African clothing, Thomas Lubanga listened intently as deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, told judges that the practice of using children in warfare is one of the most brutal and morally troubling crimes against one of war’s most vulnerable groups – children.
“We hope to send a message that those who use children to fight adult wars will face prosecution under the full weight of international law,” Bensouda said.
Thomas Lubanga is charged with three counts of war crimes for enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeastern Ituri region between 2002 and 2003.
Human rights groups estimate that more than 60,000 people have been killed during years of inter-ethnic fighting over the region’s gold mines and other resources. The purpose of this two-week confirmation hearing is to determine whether there’s enough evidence for a full trial of the alleged warlord.