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First Int'l Criminal Trial Focuses on Child Soldiers

First Int'l Criminal Trial Focuses on Child Soldiers
January 29, 2009
Source: OneWorld

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 ( - The International Criminal Court's first trial -- of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dilyo, charged with using child soldiers in northeastern Congo -- is an important step toward establishing responsibility for the use of children in military operations, says an international human rights watchdog.

Lubanga's trial, which began this Monday, and the International Criminal Court's (ICC) ongoing deliberations over issuing an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, "represent significant progress in a ... global campaign to end impunity for mass crimes," writes James A. Goldston, former coordinator of prosecutions at the ICC. Moreover, adds Goldston, the cases indicate that "a new system of international justice is working." Click here to read Goldston's complete analysis of the current ICC proceedings, published by the Ghanaian media outlet Public Agenda.

Last week, Rwandan authorities arrested Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, whose armed group the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) has been implicated in killings, tortures, and rapes during recent years of conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Nkunda's arrest could mean the possible release of up to 1,500 children that served as soldiers, sex slaves, and porters under his control, states the international charity Save the Children. "There is no way of predicting what will happen over the next couple of days, but Nkunda's arrest is a real turning point and one we hope will lead to the escape or release of more child soldiers," said Gilbert Hascoet, country director for Save the Children. "Save the Children is putting plans in place for an emergency scale up in case children are released, to provide them with counselling and support, trace their families, and ensure they are safely reintegrated into their communities," adds Hascoet. There are between 3,000 and 6,000 children held captive and used as soldiers in the DRC, estimates Save the Children.

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