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.
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In court, prosecutors accused Lubanga – leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots political group and commander of its armed wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo – of recruiting children, at times by force, to fight in a lengthy ethnic conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (see map here). Tens of thousands of people died in the fighting in this region, and an estimated 3 million to 5 million may have died countrywide in the two wars that followed the ouster of President Mobutu Sese Seko by Rwandan and Ugandan forces.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Lubanga now faces a possible life sentence.
While the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in 2003 has been signed by more than 120 countries, it has not been signed by three very powerful ones – Russia, China, and the United States – and a growing chorus of human rights activists argue that this fact undermines the credibility of the ICC’s decisions. Many African intellectuals, in particular, argue that The Hague focuses more on war crimes in Africa than it does on possible war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan or Iraq, or alleged Russian war crimes committed in Chechnya, or alleged Chinese human rights crimes committed in Tibet.
Lead ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, speaking to reporters before the verdict announcement, said that his office does not focus “too much on Africa,” but rather it focuses on cases where local or national courts do not have the capacity to bring human rights violators or war criminals to justice.
"Our office has a mandate to prosecute the worst crimes in the world where no one is investigating," Mr. Ocampo told Reuters news agency. "The world is ignoring African victims. My office cannot do that. We are proud to be working the cases we are working."
"The good thing now is we are preventing crimes,” Ocampo added. “We don't need to wait for a new Holocaust to react."
* Keep Calm, a winking reference to the World War II slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On," is a new blog that aims to provide a bit of context to help make sense of confusing news events.
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