Defense lawyers for a Congolese militia leader on trial for war crimes have slammed the International Criminal Court in The Hague, saying Thomas Lubanga cannot get a fair trial there.

Lubanga pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he recruited hundreds of child soldiers to kill members of the Lendu ethnic group during the civil war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2003.

Lawyer claims defense has not had access to all evidence

Defense counsel Jean-Marie Biju-Duval told the court Tuesday that Congolese President Joseph Kabila turned the case over to the international court to get rid of a political rival.

Lead defense counsel Catherine Mabille argued that the prosecutors have abused the court's rules, making it impossible for Lubanga to get a fair trial. She said the defense team has not had access to all the evidence against its client.

Lubanga is the first suspect to go on trial at the International Criminal Court, which was established in 2002 to try the most serious cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Former child soldiers will be among ICC witnesses

In the landmark case, the ICC says prosecutors will present 34 witnesses, including former child soldiers. The trial is expected to take months.

ICC prosecutors are investigating war crimes suspects from four African countries: DRC, Uganda, Sudan and the Central African Republic. The court is based in the Netherlands and was formed under a treaty endorsed by 108 countries, including the DRC.