The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Louis Moreno-Ocampo, has come under fire following an announcement of the suspension of investigations into any further crimes which may have been committed former Congolese rebel leader, Thomas Lubanga.
Lubanga, the leader of Union des Patriotes Congolais based in the northeastern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the first every suspect to taken into custody at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. His militia has been widely condemned by human rights groups for their role in the killings, rapes and lootings that ravaged Congo's Ituri Province between 2002 and 2003.
According to the United Nations at least 50,000 people have been killed in the province since 1999.
Despite the reported evidence against Lubanga and his militia, the former rebel leader only charges of conscripting children to fight as soldiers in inter-ethnic violence in the Congo.
Further investigations have been hampered by the current unstable situation in Ituri, where thousands of people are being driven from their homes amidst a campaign by the local United Nations mission, MONUC, against rebel groups in advance of elections at the end of this month.
Moreno-Ocampo made clear in information that he provided to the ICC's pre-trial chamber, which is dealing with the Lubanga case, that as a result, it is currently iimpossiblei to collect sufficient evidence to press further charges against him in the current proceedings.
However human rights organizations are very concerned that this decision to prosecute on such a limited charge leaves many of the crimes committed in the DRC unaddressed, and diminishes the chance that they will ever be heard in court, or that anyone will ever be found accountable.
In the February 2006 arrest warrant against Lubanga, there was provision for substantial new charges to be added to the ones he already faces, providing that the collection of evidence met the appropriate threshold within the next few months.
At the beginning of February, Moreno-Ocampo had said that further investigations into Lubanga's activities would focus on allegations of attacks against the civilian population, murders committed during these attacks, pillaging, and ordering the displacement of civilians.
Brigid Inder, executive director of the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, says the prosecution investigators have left out a huge part of the crime base in the DRC, including rape. She says that given that this is the ICC's first case, women in conflict situations such as the DRC are looking for signs that this is a court of inclusive justice.
She contends that excluding these crimes sends a message that the ICC is either unable to effectively investigate gender-based crimes, or doesn't believe these crimes have occurred, or they are not important enough to be investigated and prosecuted.
Amid this debate, Moreno-Ocampo maintains that he is not prepared to completely close off the possibility of further investigations against Lubanga in the future. In his June 28 announcement to the court, he said that he might continue investigations after the close of the current case.
During the Second Congo war, Luban was a military commander in the Uganda-allied Mouvement de Lib