Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 17:10 PM EDT, 10 July 2012
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Six years after the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) handed Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, over to The Hague for trial, and three years after the start of his trial, Lubanga has finally been received a verdict of 14 years in prison.
He now holds the dubious honor of being the first person to be taken into custody by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was created a decade ago to address war crimes in places where local courts are unable or unwilling to act.
Fellow warlord, Charles Taylor, 64, former Liberian President was also convicted earlier this year by The Special Court for Sierra Leone, in The Hague. He was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, and sexual slavery. In the court of public opinion, Ugandan warlord, Taylor, Lubanga, and all stand accused of conscripting children into his marauding armies. However, to date only Taylor and Lubanga have been captured and sentenced for conscripting children under the age of 15 to fight in their armies.
In the conflict torn countries – Uganda, DRC, Liberia and Sierra Leone, these children were more than just child soldiers, they were victims of extreme child abuse, who were brutalized and forced to torture and kill innocent citizens, as well as participate in the rape of women who could have been their mothers and grandmothers. Dissent was not an option as failure to participate resulted in their immediate execution.
In the Lubanga’s six year absence, the civil war that has utterly decimated the country continues to rage across the central African nation. Thousands of civilians have been raped and butchered at the hands of his co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, another militia leader who is now a general in the Congolese army in the North Kivu area of eastern Congo.
In the video below Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, was criticizing for his handling of the case, for not including the sexual violence charges as part of the case, and for omitting numerous other war crimes allegedly committed by Lubanga and his compatriots.
Prosecutors had sought 30 years in prison for Lubanga but given the diluted charges which did not adequately demonstrate “any aggravating circumstances” plus his cooperation with the court, resulted in a sentence which will only require him to serve 8 years in jail because of time served. Lubanga who is 51 will be freed before his 60th birthday.
Lubanga’s case this year has brought increasing pressure for the arrest of his much more infamous partner in crime, renegade Congolese army Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda had moved on from being a militia leader in Ituri to being the No. 2 leader in a tribal-based rebellion in 2006, when the ICC indicted both men for war crimes involving child soldiers.
Ntaganda and others have accused the court of racism in pursuing Africans, and especially Congolese. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir remains on the court’s agenda along with Ntaganda and two other Congolese warlords. Congo’s back-to-back civil wars that drew in soldiers from a half dozen nations killed an estimated 5 million people — more lives than any conflict since World War II. (Source: Associated Press)
Initially, the March verdict was hailed by human rights group as a victory, but today’s news was greeted with disappointment. Though other tribunals have been created throughout history to punish atrocities from specific conflicts, such as the Nuremberg trial in 1946 of Karl Doenitz, Lubanga’s case may have set a precedent of leniency since he is the first person to be convicted and sentenced directly by the ICC.Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report
- Congolese Warlord Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison (voanews.com)
- Congolese Warlord Sentenced To 14 Years For Using Child Soldiers (huffingtonpost.com)
- Thomas Lubanga Sentenced to 14 Years (nytimes.com)
- DR Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga sentenced to 14 years – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Congolese warlord sentenced (cnn.com)