Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ICC Convicts Lubanga in First Ever Verdict

The ICC video of the verdict announcement.

By Anjie Zheng

The International Criminal Court announced its landmark first verdict in the case, The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo today, finding the accused guilty of conscripting, enlisting and using child soldiers under the age of 15 in armed conflict during the 2002-2003 Ituri conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The decision is a long-awaited achievement for the young Court and a major milestone in the fight against international impunity.

The case is the first in a permanent international court to focus on the issue of child soldiers. Children under 15 years, and some as young as seven, were abducted and used as militants, cooks, porters, sex slaves, and personal bodyguards to Mr. Lubanga.

The Lubanga trial began in January 2009 and concluded in August 2011. Its length was due, in part, to two stays in the proceedings: (1) when the Prosecutor failed to disclose potentially exculpatory information to the defense and (2) when the the Prosecutor refused to disclose the identify of an intermediary who had helped collect evidence. In delivering the verdict, Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford harshly criticized the Prosecutor for his "negligence in failing to verify and scrutinize material sufficiently before it was introduced." This inattentiveness "led to significant expenditure on the part of the Court."

The Chamber ultimately withdrew the testimonies of three victims and six witnesses, holding that the evidence they presented was unreliable. The Judge's strict guidelines regarding evidence is a clear example of due process enforcement and a commitment to ensure a fair trial. As this was the first trial by the ICC, the procedural diligence required of the Office of the Prosecutor is likely to set precedents for the future.

The judgment issued today was only in English. Once the French version is released, the accused is entitled to appeal the verdict within 30 days. There will be separate hearings to determine the length and location of incarceration, as well as the details of victims' reparations. Although the Lubanga case is not over, the conclusion of the trial is the culmination of a historic effort to establish a permanent international criminal court that tries perpetrators of the worst crimes.

AMICC will be issuing an advocacy paper on the Lubanga trial in the coming days. In the meantime, refer to background on the case by the ICC and CICC, as well as analyses by Human Rights Watch,, and Citizens for Global Solutions.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo at the announcement of the verdict.
Photo credit: ICC-CPI/Evert-Jan Daniel

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