ICC to Deliver 1st Verdict, on DRC Warlord

Posted March 14th, 2012 at 2:00 am (UTC-5)
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The International Criminal Court is set to deliver its first ever verdict Wednesday in the trial of alleged Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, accused of sending children into battle.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says Wednesday's verdict will set a precedent that shows the world on guard against crimes against humanity.

“Tomorrow is a very important day. The first decision of the first permanent international criminal court. The world was united at Nuremberg, but we learned that 'never again' requires that we are not waiting for a new Hitler. So tomorrow's decision on Lubanga, who was a local militia leader, is critically important.”

Lubanga faces charges of recruiting child soldiers to fight for the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo in a 1998-2003 war. He has pleaded not guilty. If he is convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo say a top commander from a different rebel group, the FDLR, has surrendered amid a “major military operation” mounted by the Congolese army and United Nations peacekeepers.

U.N. spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai told VOA Tuesday Lt. Colonel Bizimana, or Idrissa Muradadi, and three of his bodyguards turned themselves in to the U.N. mission in South Kivu.

Mounoubai said Bizimana is the first high-level rebel to surrender to the U.N. disarmament program, and he said he thinks it will lead more rebels to turn themselves in.

“It is excellent news because we think that the surrender of Idrissa will also have a demoralizing effect on the troops and we are expecting to see a lot of the FDLR [rebels] surrender in the coming days.”

“There is a major military operation going on right now by the FARDC [Congo's national army], supported by MONUSCO, and we believe that this has something to do with the surrender of Mr. Bizimana because I think they start feeling the heat of this operation now.”

The FDLR was established by ethnic Hutus who took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis and fled to Congo after the killing spree was stopped.

The group has been accused of committing atrocities in the eastern DRC.