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International Criminal Court Calls First Defendant, From D.R.C.

I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

The world's first permanent court for war crimes was established in the Netherlands in two thousand two. Since then the International Criminal Court has not had anyone to bring to trial.

This week the court in The Hague called its first prisoner to appear.

Officials say Thomas Lubanga Dyilo led one of the most violent armed groups in the Ituri area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is accused of forcing children under the age of fifteen to take part in hostilities.

Congolese officials have had him under arrest for a year. He was flown to The Hague on March seventeenth.

Mister Lubanga was in court Monday for a pre-trial hearing. It lasted half an hour. He confirmed his identify. He gave his profession as "politician." Details of the charges are to be read at the next hearing, set for June twenty-seventh.

The International Criminal Court was created as a place to seek justice when national systems fail. The court has also sought the arrest of leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. And it has begun investigations into the violence in the Darfur area of Sudan.

One hundred twenty nations agreed to the court at a United Nations conference in Rome in nineteen ninety-eight. But the idea really began after World War Two with the trials of war criminals from Nazi Germany and Japan. The idea gained support more recently during U.N. trials resulting from the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The Rome Statute is the treaty that created the International Criminal Court. The United States opposes the treaty; it says there are serious problems with the document. The United States signed the treaty, but President Bill Clinton never sent it to the Senate for approval. Finally, President Bush withdrew any support.

American officials say the court could be used against American troops and citizens for political purposes. They argue that because the court is independent, its officials are responsible to no one. Some say it might even violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court is supposed to be America's highest court.

The United States has said it will try any Americans suspected of war crimes.

The International Criminal Court is one of more than one hundred international legal organizations with headquarters at The Hague. Another is the International Court of Justice, known as the World Court.

The United Nations established the World Court in nineteen forty-five. The main purpose is to settle legal disputes between nations.

Another court in The Hague has been in the news lately: the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. It spent four years trying Slobodan Milosevic, until the sudden death of the former president earlier this month.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish. I'm Steve Ember.