The ICC’s trial first landmark trial concluded in The Hague this week with the Appeals Chamber confirming the conviction and and 14 year sentence against Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga.
In 2012, Lubanga was found responsible for the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under 15 and using them in an armed conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002-3.
We bring you some reactions.
At Monday’s hearing, the Chamber dismissed appeals by both Lubanga and the prosecutor, who wanted a longer sentence. Judge Sang-Hyun Song partly dissented in relation to the appeals against the verdict and the sentence, while Judge Anita Ušacka dissented with regard to Lubanga’s appeal against the verdict.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
“[…] The ICC has already issued three Trial Judgements and this decision is the second decision to reach finality at the Court. The significance of this case for millions of children around the world cannot be overstated. The decision sends a clear message to those who recruit and conscript children to take active part in hostilities that they will be held accountable for such crimes irrespective of their position or status. To be sure, this decision stands as a symbol of hope and an important step towards bringing an end to the suffering of tens of thousands of children still forced to fight, to kill and to die in conflicts around the world.” Read full statement
Irène Esambo Diata, coordinator, Study Center on Justice and Resolution 1325, DRC
“The Study Center on Justice and Resolution 1325 (CJR1325), welcomes decision issued by the ICC Appeals Chamber in the case against Thomas Lubanga regarding the serious human rights violations in Ituri. The upholding of Lubanga’s original verdict and sentence came as a great relief for the victims. The sentence against Lubanga is proportional to the gravity of the crimes since the conscription of children within armed groups has a devastating impact on the present and future generations. The CJR1325 is now waiting for the ICC to issue a decision on reparations allocated to the victims of the case.”
Bukeni T. Waruzi, senior program manager – Africa and the Middle East & Lead Global SGBV Initiative, WITNESS
“The ICC Appeals Chamber’s decision to confirm the verdict and sentence against Thomas Lubanga shows that the international community will not tolerate crimes against children during armed conflicts. This judgment not only reaffirms the gravity of those crimes, but also demonstrates a real determination to fight impunity and sends a strong message to potential perpetrators. This verdict is a great satisfaction for the survivors of those crimes, most notably child soldiers in the DRC, in Africa and everywhere in the world. However, it is regrettable that sexual and gender based crimes were not among the charges against Lubanga. We hope that they will be included in future cases.”
Alison Smith, international criminal justice director, No Peace Without Justice
“No Peace Without Justice and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty welcome the ICC Appeals Chamber decision as an important step for the recognition of children’s human rights. It is the first time that the war crime of conscripting, enlisting or using of child soldiers to participate actively in hostilities has come to trial at the ICC – and the first case to reach completion. This is a time for celebration and a time for reflection. This is an important moment for the victims and for children’s rights in general. For the victims, it means that responsibility for the crimes committed against them and their loved ones is clear. All that remains is for the Appeals Chamber to rule on reparations, which we hope that will happen without delay, as it is an important step in closure not only for the victims, but for everyone affected by the case.” Read full statement.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organizations
“As the conflict in the DRC persists, this judicial decision reconfirms that the perpetrators of international crimes must be brought to justice. The trial and confirmation of Lubanga’s judgment have contributed greatly to sensitizing public opinion on the fate of children forced to fight war and the importance of rendering them justice […] Nevertheless we regret that the Appeals judges, like the Trial Court judges, did not take up the Prosecutor’s request to consider sexual violence against girl soldiers under 15 as an aggravating factor in the determination of the sentence, saying the Prosecutor had not brought enough solid evidence concerning Lubanga’s responsibility […] We hope that the Prosecutor’s new policy on investigations and prosecutions of sexual and sexist crime perpetrators will respond to certain challenges raised by this first trial. […] Despite the confirmation of the conviction by a majority of the ICC Appeals judges, the dissenting opinions, in particular of Judge Usacka, underline the necessity for solid strategies and policies on investigation and prosecution, and the importance of respecting the right of the Accused to a fair trial.” Read full statement.
Brigid Inder, executive director, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice
“The road to justice for the victims, survivors and communities in Ituri, eastern DRC has been long and painful and we hope that today’s announcement will provide some satisfaction to those affected by these crimes and this militia group. We welcome the Chamber’s decision which sends a message to militia leaders the world over that justice may be slow, but accountability is inevitable’. ‘The judges’ final decision today provides justice for children abducted, abused, and forced to fight by the UPC. We are optimistic that this case will inspire more rigorous efforts in the future by prosecutors and judges to address and integrate gender issues within the legal concepts of enlistment, conscription and use of children in armed conflict. We also hope that this case will add to our collective understanding of the terror and impact on children, boys and girls, who are forced to participate in armed conflicts.” Read full statement.
Carla Ferstman, executive director of REDRESS
“Children who were recruited and used in armed conflict by Lubanga’s armed group, the FPLC, and their families have now waited over a decade to see their suffering acknowledged and to receive reparation for the harm inflicted upon them. In August 2012, the Trial Chamber issued a decision on reparation in the case, affirming the fundamental rights of victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide to reparations, but this decision remains under appeal and the process of awarding reparations to victims will not begin until the appeal is resolved […] We urge the Appeals Chamber to rule without delay on the appeals against the reparation decision. Years of armed conflict have left many victims without the means to deal with the devastating consequences of these crimes and many live in dire circumstances […] REDRESS urges the Prosecutor to reflect on the evidentiary issues raised during the proceedings, in order to ensure that in future the strongest possible cases are brought to trial. The Lubanga trial was at risk of ending prematurely on two occasions, as a result of a variety of issues concerning insufficient evidence and problems with witnesses. That kind of result would have been catastrophic for victims.”Read full statement.
Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, advocacy director, International Justice Program, Human Rights Watch
“In upholding the Lubanga guilty verdict, the ICC Appeals chamber has brought some measure of justice to children dragged into war in the DRC. The Lubanga case experienced many up and downs and the disagreements among judges on appeal just underscore the importance of the court drawing lessons from this experience in order to strengthen its operations, notably in the upcoming trial of Lubanga’s co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda. The final verdict in the Lubanga case puts a dent into impunity for grave crimes committed in Congo. Yet horrific crimes are still being committed in Congo, and the ICC prosecutor should continue investigations with a view to bringing new cases.” Read more.
Have your say: What do you think is the significance of this decision?