THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Judges of the International Criminal Court suspended the trial of an accused Congolese warlord on Thursday, saying the prosecution's refusal to disclose information had rendered it unfair.
Thomas Lubanga, 49, has pleaded not guilty to charges of using child soldiers in a brutal conflict in the eastern Congo region of Ituri in 2002-2003.
The judges said "the fair trial of the accused is no longer possible" after prosecutors refused to give information to the defense about the identity of a person connected with the case. The information would have remained confidential, they said.
"In order for the chamber to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial, it is necessary that its orders, decisions and rulings are respected," the three judges said in a statement released by the court.
The judges said they would entertain motions for Lubanga's release and for possible sanctions for misconduct by the prosecution. Their decision to halt the trial also could be appealed, they said.
Lubanga has been in detention more than four years.
His trial has been troubled almost from its start in January 2009, as prosecutors tussled with judges over the admissibility of evidence gathered in confidence from U.N. personnel and nongovernment volunteers in the battlefield, who believed disclosure of their identities could jeopardize their lives or work.
Lubanga is the first defendant to go on trial at the permanent war crimes court.
Human rights activists consider it a landmark since it is the first case to focus solely on the use of children in hostilities.