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ICC delays warlord pre-trial hearing

18 June 2013, 18:07

The Hague - A crucial preliminary hearing of evidence against an African warlord known as "The Terminator" has been pushed back to give prosecutors more time to prepare their case, the International Criminal Court announced on Tuesday.

The start of the so-called confirmation of charges hearing against Bosco Ntaganda has been put back to 10 February next year. It had been due to start on 26 September.

The hearing is intended to let judges weigh if there is enough evidence to support the prosecution's charges and merit putting Ntaganda on trial.

Rwandan-born Ntaganda was first indicted in 2006 on charges of recruiting and using child soldiers in Congo's eastern province of Ituri. Last July prosecutors added charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution and pillaging, in 2002-2003. 

Prosecutors allege he was the deputy chief of staff of rebel group the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Democratic Republic of Congo. Ntaganda, who has not yet entered a plea, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if he is sent for trial and convicted.

He turned himself in in March after nearly seven years as a fugitive from justice and is in custody in the court's detention block.

A judge said in the decision that the length of time Ntaganda was a fugitive meant prosecution teams should be given leeway in preparing their case.

"Where the suspect is evading justice for many years, it is neither possible nor reasonable to impose on the prosecutor a permanent stand-by availability of the teams for years," the written ruling said.

- AP


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