Congo warlord stands trial

A Congolese militia leader accused of using child soldiers to kill members of an ethnic minority goes on...

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A Congolese militia leader accused of using child soldiers to kill members of an ethnic minority goes on trial Monday at the first ever war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court.<?xml:namespace prefix="o" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office"?>

Thomas Lubanga, founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) in <?xml:namespace prefix="st1" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags"?><country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Congo</country-region>’s eastern Ituri district, denies he enlisted and conscripted children under 15 to kill ethnic Lendus in a 1998-2003 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

ICC prosecutors allege that child soldiers recruited by the UPC were involved in hostilities between October 2002 and June 2003 and that some of them were forced to kill and that others lost their lives in combat.

Lubanga is also alleged to have used child soldiers as bodyguards.

More than 30,000 children were recruited during the DRC conflict, many plied with marijuana and told they were protected by witchcraft, according to Bukeni Waruzi, the Africa and <place w:st="on">Middle East co-ordinator for human rights group Witness.