Thomas Lubanga Dyilo: The Chronicle of a Case Foretold

Abstract: The developments in Lubanga case continue to bear the surprise element. Despite the initial decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stay the proceedings and release the accused due to the impossibility to hold a fair trial, eventually the Appeals Chamber reversed recently the above decision. Moreover, less unexpectedly thereafter the Trial Chamber I, to which the case was referred, decided the commencement of the hearing on 26 January 2009.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the founder and former leader of the political and paramilitary group ‘Union of Congolese Patriots’ (UPC – Union des Patriotes Congolais), which was formed in 2000 in Congo with the participation of people mainly from the Hema ethnicity. The ‘Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo’ (Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC), which essentially constitutes the military wing of the Union was also under Lubanga’s leadership at least until the end of 2003.

The Ituri province, a region in the north-eastern side of Congo, rich in minerals and thus with plenty of mines, became at the dawn of the new millennium a field of fierce conflict between various paramilitary and rebel groups; as a consequence over sixty thousand innocent people were killed and about one hundred thousand were displaced from their homes during 1999-2005. The Union of Congolese Patriots was accused inter alia of massacres against civilians in the above province in 2002. Furthermore, the same organization was blamed by UN and Non-Governmental Organisations for the murder of eight hundred citizens, mainly members of the Lendu ethnicity, in the town of Mongbwalu and the surrounding villages, as well as for the recruitment of child soldiers. According to testimonies, Lubanga’s soldiers would frequently conduct after the battle searches to every house in order to arrest, torture and execute people who were of Lendu ethnicity, while characteristic of the atrocities committed is that after the battle in the town of Hema, the arrested civilians were executed via the smashing of their skull with a sledgehammer.

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