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DR Congo warlord will face trial

Thomas Lubanga in court, file image, July 2006
Thomas Lubanga has been in custody since 2006

Former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga will be tried in January at the International Criminal Court, seven months after the trial was suspended.

The announcement by the ICC in The Hague ends months of procedural delays over the case.

It was halted just a week before the war crimes trial was due to start, after judges accused the prosecution of withholding evidence from the defence.

His case will be the first ever to come to trial before the ICC.

Mr Lubanga was arrested in 2006, accused of recruiting and using child soldiers during the Democratic Republic of Congo's brutal five-year conflict that ended in 2003.

He led the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia in the north-eastern Ituri district, around the town of Bunia, where fighting continued long after the official end of the war.

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In a statement released early last year, the prosecution argued that children had been snatched as they walked to school and forced to fight for Mr Lubanga's ethnic Hema militia against their Lendu rivals.

The child soldiers were later instructed "to kill all Lendu including men, women and children", the prosecution statement said, based on testimony from six children.

Mr Lubanga denied any wrongdoing. His lawyers said he was trying to end the conflict and is being punished by the international community for refusing to give mining concessions in areas he controlled to foreign firms.

The ICC, based in The Hague, was set up in 2002 as the world's first permanent war crimes court.

It was designed to end the need for various ad hoc war crimes courts - including the chambers created to deal with war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda.

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