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ICC Orders Former Congolese Militia Leader's Release

Lubanga family member Sylvia Dzbo says the family hopes this time around Lubanga would be freed

A family member of former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga said the family welcomes the news that Lubanga has been ordered released.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled Thursday that Lubanga should be freed without condition unless prosecutors can appeal the ruling.

The ICC in The Hague July 8 ordered the suspension of Lubanga’s trial because prosecutors refused to give his defense lawyers the name of a person connected with the case.

Lubanga family member Sylvia Dzbo said the family hopes that this time around Lubanga would be freed.

“Here, we are very happy about the news, but our main concern is that it’s not the first time that they have said they will release him. If they say he will be freed and go anywhere he wants, then we can say yes we win this war because we believe he is innocent about everything that they say,” Dzbo said.

The ICC in its ruling Thursday reportedly said Lubanga would remain in jail for at least another five days to give the prosecutor time to file an appeal against the decision to release Lubanga.

The judges have given the prosecution five days to appeal, after which Lubanga could be set free.

Dzbo expressed cautious optimism that this time around Mr. Lubanga will be released.

“The last time it was the same scenario. They said he would be freed and in the last minute the prosecutor appealed and then they kept him there. But still that time until now there was no proof. I think now is the real time, and I think now he will be released for good,” Dzbo said.

Displaced Congolese children
Displaced Congolese children

Lubanga has pleaded not guilty to charges he used child soldiers during fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo a decade ago.

She said Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s refusal to give Lubanga defense lawyers the name of a person connected with the case proves the prosecutor has no evidence against Lubanga.

“This is something we don’t understand because he [the prosecutor] should give us his name [the Lubanga intermediary]. What’s wrong with that prosecutor? May be there’s something he didn’t tell us the truth. May be it’s personal. But I don’t think it can be personal because we don’t know him [the prosecutor],” Dzbo said.

Dzbo reiterated the Lubanga family belief that some of the testimony against Lubanga was coerced.

“I invite you personally to come to [Bunia] and see, to ask people who don’t know Thomas Lubanga but people who were there when things were bad,” Dzbo said.

She said the Lubanga case should serve as example to the ICC prosecutor to not rush to judgment.

‘I think before you take someone there [to the ICC], to put his name on the spot to say everyone this guy is a criminal, I think before to do that you have to be careful. You have to check every detail. You have to be 100 percent sure the guy is a bad guy,” Dzbo said.