Trial Chamber I Orders the Release of Thomas Lubanga

Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has ordered the release of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, based on the court’s order last week to stay the proceedings.  That order, blogged about here, found that the prosecutions refusal to obey court orders to disclose the identity of witnesses to the defense prevented a fair trial of Mr. Lubanga.  The International Criminal Law Bureau reported on the release order here. The court had previously admonished the prosecution for late disclosure as described here.

The order of release will not take effect until the 5-day appeal period expires, if the prosecution files its appeal within five days, the detention may continue pending the resolution of the appeal.  The ICC press release, available here, states: “According to the judges, an accused cannot be held in preventative custody on a speculative basis, namely that at some stage in the future the proceedings may be resurrected.”

Lubanga was the reputed leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He is charged with war crimes including the conscripting and using of child soldiers.  Lubanga was the first person to be brought before the court and made his first appearance in 2007.  His trial commenced in The Hague in January, 2009, and the defense began presenting its case in January, 2010. The Lubanga trial has previously been suspended several times, twice  for transcription errors, for the appeals chamber to consider adding additional charges, and for the prosecution to comply with disclosure orders.  It appears the court has no intention of lifting the current stay.

The other case currently in trial, Germain Katanga, and Matthieu Ngdolo,Chui also from the Democratic Republic of Congo has not been stayed.  It is not clear what effect the ruling will have on that case, or on the other case awaiting trial, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo from the Central African Republic.