Int'l Criminal Court Opens With Congo Trial
In first case, warlord pleads not guilty to using child soldiers
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2009 6:15 AM CST
Alleged Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, center, is seen at the start of a hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006. His trial began today.   ( AP Photo/ Bas Czerwinski, File)
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(Newser) – The International Criminal Court in The Hague began its first trial today, as a Congolese militia leader pleaded not guilty to charges of using child soldiers. The court's prosecutor accused Thomas Lubanga of using hundreds of boys as young as nine "to kill, pillage, and rape" in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The case is the first to come before the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal since it was established in 2002.

Lubanga's trial, which aims to send a signal that militia leaders cannot commit atrocities with impunity, is receiving wide coverage in Congo, reports the BBC. Some 108 states are party to the ICC, although the United States has so far not joined. While conducting several trials arising from the conflict in the Congo, the court is also considering whether to issue an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president accused of genocide in Darfur.