A family member of former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga is calling for his immediate release from further detention.
This comes after the International Criminal Court (ICC) Thursday suspended Mr. Lubanga's trial, citing the prosecutor's refusal to turn over relevant information to the defense.
Former Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga
Sylvia Dzbo, a cousin to Mr. Lubanga said the ICC has no evidence to justify Mr. Lubanga’s continued detention.
“The last time that Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo was at Bunia he talked with one of my cousins. He was there to make sure all the proof against Thomas Lubanga was wrong. The last word to from him was that Thomas Lubanga will be released soon. Then we heard there will be a trial. But now they say no it’s suspended. But we don’t understand because they know everything that was said against him was wrong,” she said.
Dzbo appealed to the international media to help the family disprove the allegations against Mr. Lubanga.
“I hope you guys will help us to know the truth about everything. If our brother is guilty we will understand why he’s there. But if he’s not, why are they keeping him there? And from my side, I believe he’s not guilty,” Dzbe said.
Lubanga is charged with war crimes for allegedly using children under 15 years old to fight in his Union of Congolese Patriots armed group during the five-year civil war which ended in 2002 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A DRC child soldier
Dzbo said Lubanga was only trying to protect his Hema ethnic group from their rival Lendu in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Imagine if people coming to your house to kill you. The only thing you can do is to protect yourself and to protect us because our ethnic group was attacked. This is what Thomas Lubanga was doing to protect himself and to protect us. Our ethnic group is Hema and the other ethnic group is lendu. For long time Hema and Lendu were manipulated to kill each other. By whom, we don’t know,” Dzbo said.
Lubanga is also being accused of being driven by a desire to maintain his control over Congo’s eastern Ituri region, one of the world’s most lucrative gold-mining regions.
Dzbo said the allegations are untrue because Lubanga and his family remain poor.
“I can ask you something, please, send people to Bunia and try to know if Thomas Lubanga has anything. Why is he poor? Why his family is poor if he was controlling all gold stuff?” Dzbo said