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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Court examines DR Congo 'crimes'
Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo
The prosecutor rejected complaints against US troops in Iraq
The International Criminal Court in The Hague says it is looking into allegations of war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said the crimes reported included ethnic massacres, summary executions, disappearances, torture, ritual cannibalisation and forced recruitment of child soldiers.

Many of the allegations centre on the north-eastern province of Ituri.

"Since 1 July, 2002, more than 5,000 people died in Ituri as a direct consequence of crimes that could constitute genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity," Mr Moreno Ocampo said.

He stressed that the global criminal court was not yet opening an formal investigation into DR Congo.

The gathering of information is a first step before the prosecutor can approach the judges of the court, who have to approve any investigation.

Child warrior in DR Congo
The recruitment of child soldiers is among the DR Congo allegations
The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan, in The Hague, says the DR Congo allegations are based on reports by United Nations workers and media outlets, as well as witness accounts compiled by non-governmental organisations.

The ICC is mandated to try cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but can only hear cases about events that occurred after 1 July, 2002.

A total of 499 complaints from 66 countries have been filed since it opened last year.

Mr Moreno Ocampo told reporters that some of the complaints - such as those made against US troops in Iraq - would not be investigated as they did not fall within its jurisdiction.

"We have received communications about acts allegedly perpetrated by US troops in Iraq but we are not mandated to prosecute such acts since neither Iraq or the United States are states party to the court," he said.

US opposition

The ICC can only act in cases involving nationals of states that have ratified its statute, or events that occurred on their territories.

Washington has strongly opposed the court, fearing politically-motivated prosecution of its citizens or military personnel. It has not ratified the ICC statute.

It has also suspended more than $47m in military aid to 35 countries for their failure to give US citizens immunity from the tribunal.

Mr Moreno Ocampo said the court had also received complaints about nationals who are part of the US-led coalition force in Iraq, like Britain.

But he added that the court had to first determine if the national authorities concerned were unwilling or unable to investigate - only then could the ICC step in.

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