New registrar of International Criminal Court vows to strive to protect witnesses

Protecting witnesses will be a major challenge for the International Criminal Court as the tribunal prepares to conduct its first trial this year, the incoming ICC registrar said yesterday. ( UN )

Silvana Arbia, who was sworn in as registrar at a ceremony today at the ICC seat in The Hague, said her office would "dedicate its energy to the first trial" - that of the former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.

Mr. Lubanga Dyilo faces war crimes charges, including that he recruited children to serve as soldiers in the armed wing of his militia, the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which fought with Government forces in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002-03.

Ms. Arbia described the trial, set to begin in June, as "the final and most visible result of the joint effort of all the organs of the court. One major challenge will continue to be the protection of witnesses. The systems we put in place have to be efficient and sustainable."

She added that the "first trial shall strive to be a model for national jurisdictions and also a positive benchmark for regions and States which have not yet accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC."

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern - namely genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is currently investigating cases in the DRC, Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Darfur region of Sudan.

The registry is responsible for the overall administration and management of the tribunal and must ensure that witnesses are protected and that the rights of all accused are respected.

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