Hague court issues its first guilty verdict against Congo warlord Lubanga
The guilty verdict against Lubanga will draw new attention to pending cases against 20 other indictees, including Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the focus of Invisible Children's Kony2012 video campaign.
The International Criminal Court at the Hague, Netherlands, has found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of conscripting and using child soldiers during the 1998-2003 conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.Skip to next paragraph
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This is the first-ever verdict for the Hague court, and one that is likely to give credibility to future court cases filed against other ICC indictees such as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Uganda’s cultish warlord Joseph Kony. Mr. Kony, founder of the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, is the first man to be charged with war crimes by the ICC, and has recently become focus of an Internet campaign launched by the American activist group Invisible Children, urging Kony’s arrest for abduction of child soldiers.
From the courtroom, Rachel Irwin, a reporter for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, tweeted the results of the verdict, noting that Lubanga “showed no emotion [but] nodded at those seated in the gallery.”
Human rights groups hailed Lubanga’s verdict as a validation of the ICC, which has taken criticism for its lengthy process, and for its penchant for focusing on African war crimes, rather than those in the Middle East, Asia, or the richer countries of the West.
Human Rights Watch said that the Lubanga verdict should be a warning to other military commanders, including Lubanga's own co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, who is currently a general in the Congo Army in Goma.
“The verdict against Lubanga is a victory for the thousands of children forced to fight in Congo’s brutal wars,” said Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “Military commanders in Congo and elsewhere should take notice of the ICC’s powerful message: using children as a weapon of war is a serious crime that can lead them to the dock.”
Don Kraus, chief executive officer of Citizens for Global Solutions, greeted the decision, saying in a statement, “Lubanga’s guilty verdict is a landmark moment in the short history of the Court. For the first time in the history of humanity, nations have come together and established a permanent means of holding tyrants and human rights abusers accountable, while providing a fair system of justice, even for the most heinous crimes. This is how we build a safer, more secure world.”