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January 26th, 2009
First Trial for International Criminal Court

Lucy Kennedy

Ten years after the Rome Treaty was signed to establish the International Criminal Court, the ICC brought its first case to trial in The Hague. Thomas Lubanga faces six charges of recruiting and using hundreds of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003.

The case is a litmus test for the competence and focus of the ICC. “It will demonstrate that the Court can do what it says it is going to do,” said John L. Washburn of the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC), a group that is committed to full U.S. support for the ICC.

Despite 108 countries ratifying the ICC, the United States has refused to do so. The Bush administration withdrew President Clinton’s signature of the Rome Treaty, and subsequently cut off aid to 35 countries because they refused to promise American citizens immunity from the court. Washburn and others hope that the new Obama Administration will change U.S. policy toward the ICC.

“The U.S. military has long has had deep concerns about the court, that it would be used to harass U.S. military officials and soldiers,” said Washburn. “The Obama administration is sensitive to that.” But Washburn is hoping for a “cautious openness” to the ICC by the Obama Administration.

In a written questionnaire in October 2007, Obama said, “The Court has pursued charges only in cases of the most serious and systemic crimes and it is in America‚Äôs interests that these most heinous of criminals, like the perpetrators of the genocide in Darfur, are held accountable.” The international court is expected to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir early this year.

In the film Media by Milosevic, WIDE ANGLE speaks with Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper of the Office of War Crimes Issues about U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court. WIDE ANGLE visits the Democratic Republic of Congo in Democracy in the Rough, and explores the issue of child soldiers in Lord’s Children.

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