The International Criminal Court (ICC) today sentenced Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former Congolese warlord, to 14 years of imprisonment for his involvement in child soldier recruitment.
In March, the ICC found Mr. Lubanga guilty of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the Forces Patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC) militia, and using them to participate in hostilities in the Ituri region in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, between September 2002 and August 2003. Mr. Lubanga was the commander-in-chief of the FPLC at the time.
According to an ICC news release, the judges of the Court’s Trial Chamber 1 also ordered that the time from Mr. Lubanga’s surrender to the ICC on 16 March 2006 until today should be deducted from the 14-year sentence.
At the ICC’s open hearing, the Trial Chamber’s Presiding Judge, Adrian Fulford, explained that the Chamber considered the gravity of the crimes, with regard, among other things, to the extent of the damage caused, and in particular “the harm caused to the victims and their families, the nature of the unlawful behaviour and the means employed to execute the crime; the degree of participation of the convicted person; the degree of intent; the circumstances of manner, time and location; and the age, education, social and economic condition of the convicted person.”
Judge Fulford also highlighted that the crimes for which Mr. Lubanga was convicted were serious crimes that affect the international community as a whole, noting that the “vulnerability of children means that they need to be afforded particular protection that does not apply to the general population, as recognised in various international treaties.”
Judge Fulford indicated that the Chamber’s decision, however, reflected certain other factors involving Mr. Lubanga – namely, his cooperation with the Court and his respectful attitude throughout the proceedings.
The ICC news release also noted that one of the three judges had written a separate and dissenting opinion on a particular issue. Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito disagreed with the Chamber’s majority decision “to the extent that, in her view, it disregards the damage caused to the victims and their families, particularly as a result of the harsh punishments and sexual violence suffered by the victims of these crimes.”
Mr. Lubanga is the first person to be tried at the ICC since it came into being on 1 July 2002.
“With today’s sentence of Thomas Lubanga, a historic international judgment comes to an end signaling to the world that child recruitment no longer goes unpunished,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said in the wake of the sentencing. “We hope that the full damage and losses suffered by children and their families will be reflected and addressed in the up-coming reparations process.”
Established by the Rome Statute of 1998, the ICC can try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002. The United Nations Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor or a State Party to the court can initiate any proceedings, and the ICC only acts when countries themselves are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute.