The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced Congolese former warlord Thomas Lubanga to 14 years in prison, for conscripting children. He was found guilty in March of abducting boys and girls under the age of 15 and forcing them to fight. It is this court’s first conviction.
ICC Presiding Judge Adrian Fullford said: “In accordance with a majority decision, Mr Lubanga is sentenced to a total period of 14 years’ imprisonment.”
Six countries have said they would be willing to incarcerate Lubanga; the ICC will decide where to send him. There will also be compensation paid to 123 of his victims, from an ICC Trust Fund.
Their representative Franck Mulenda said: “We are satisfied, but might feel better once we hear definitively about reparations. As for the sentence, it is a kind of vengeance.”
Lubanga’s Union of Congolese Patriots fought against militias from another ethnic group in a war in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003. At least 60,000 people are thought to have been killed. Human rights groups say he is also guilty of “ethnic massacres, murder, torture, rape and mutilation”, and that he forced families to give his forces money, food or a child to fight.
In the documentary film on the conflict ?On the Front Lines’, a girl soldier said, in the Swahili language: “My rank is sergeant 1st class. I kill with bullets on the frontlines. My strength is killing with knives and ropes.”
The Hague-based court entered into force a decade ago, a permanent body now backed by more than 120 signatory states, its scope of prosecution not restricted to a specific conflict.
Critics say the ICC has moved too slowly and failed to put its most important suspects on trial. In comparison, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has convicted more than 60 people since it was set up in 1993.