Court delays Congolese militiaman's release

23rd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Congolese militia chief Thomas Lubanga will remain in custody until judges rule on an appeal by prosecutors against a decision to free him, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said Friday.

"Today, the appeals chamber of the ICC granted the suspensive effect to the prosecution's appeal" against a July 15 decision to free Lubanga following the suspension of his trial, said a court statement.

"Therefore the accused will remain under custody of the ICC pending the final decision on the appeal."

The judges found that "immediate implementation" of the order to free Lubanga, could render a post-appeal resumption of the trial "impossible".

Lubanga, 49, has been on trial since January 2009 accused of using children under the age of 15 to fight for his militia during the five-year civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which ended in 2003.

Earlier this month, the ICC suspended his trial after criticising the chief prosecutor for abusing court processes and ignoring judges' orders.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo had refused to comply with an order from the judges to disclose to Lubanga's defence team the name of an intermediary.

In a subsequent ruling the court said Lubanga's detention given the suspension of the trial was no longer fair, and said he should be freed.

Moreno-Ocampo appealed against both decisions.

Lubanga surrendered to the ICC in March 2006.

His trial, the ICC's first, was initially to have started in June 2008 but was stalled until the following year when the court ruled that prosecutors had wrongly withheld evidence potentially favourable to his defence.

© 2010 AFP

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