Thomas Lubanga: Congolese warlord first person ever sentenced by ICC (+video)
A tough ICC sentence for rebel commander Thomas Lubanga, convicted of recruiting and using child soldiers from 2002 to 2003, sets precedent for seven other pending war crimes cases.
With his 14-year prison sentence for the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, announced today, Thomas Lubanga became the first person in history to be sentenced by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Lubanga’s case has been closely watched because the ICC is quickly becoming the court of last resort for developing countries that do not have the capacity to try cases of gross human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide. In addition to the Lubanga case, the ICC is investigating seven cases – one of them involving a sitting head of state, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir – all of them from Africa.
Lubanga had been convicted in March 2012. He reportedly showed no emotion today when the sentence was read by Judge Adrian Fulford on Tuesday morning. It is unclear at this time where Lubanga will serve the remaining eight years of his sentence (he has spent six years in custody already, since his arrest in 2006.) Six countries have agreed to host ICC convicts in their prisons: Austria, Belgium, Britain, Finland, Mali, and Serbia.
The ICC’s former prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for a 30-year sentence for Lubanga, who led a rebel group called the Union of Congolese Patriots from 2002 to 2003. Human Rights Watch estimates that 60,000 people were killed in that brief conflict in the eastern Congo region of Ituri. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that it was commanders such as Lubanga, as well as Lubanga’s enemies, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, and Lubanga’s ally, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who bore the most responsibility for those deaths, and for the ruined lives of the recruited child soldiers.
"These children were told to kill and rape,” Ocampo told the court last month. “That was the education he [Lubanga] gave these children."
Created by the Rome Statute in 1998, and brought into existence in 2002 as a “permanent institution that shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern,” the ICC is an experiment in international justice. There have been international tribunals before, for the war crimes of Nazi commanders, for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, for the war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.