Lubanga is accused of recruiting child soldiers[Files:AFP]

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese national, is the first to be put on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Lubanga is the leader of the Union of the Congolese Patriots (UPC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He is accused of having recruited hundreds of children under the age of 15 to fight in the armed wing of the organisation during the civil war in the DRC between September 2002 and August 2003.

Lubanga has pleaded not guilty to the charges at the ICC, located in the Hague, the Netherlands.

He says he was fighting to prevent rebels and foreign fighters from plundering the vast mineral wealth of the DRC's eastern Ituri region.

The prosecution alleges that Lubanga's role in the conflict in Ituri was driven by a desire to maintain and expand his political control over the region, one of the world's most lucrative gold-mining territories.

Human Rights Watch has accused the UPC of killing hundreds of civilians in a series of attacks in Bunia, the capital of Ituri, and the surrounding area. The fighting forced 140,000 people to leave their homes.

Lubanga, a 48-year-old psychology graduate, held senior positions in Ugandan-allied rebel groups during the second Congo war, lasting from 1998 to 2003.

Lubanga was arrested In March 2006 in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, and transferred to the International Criminal Court.

The court ruled in January 2007 that there was enough evidence to prosecute him for war crimes.

Source: Agencies