Wednesday’s conviction of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga at the International Criminal Court on charges of recruiting child soldiers was a historic moment for the institution - the first successful prosecution in its 10-year history. But analysts say the ICC is still far short of becoming a truly international court of justice.
Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has become the global face of the International Criminal Court.
For him, the conviction of Thomas Lubanga was a big moment. "An international court investigated the suffering of some of the most vulnerable members of humanity -- children in war zones. The court provided a fair trial to the suspect and convicted him. It is a victory for humanity," Moreno-Ocampo said.
The charges in Lubanga’s conviction were based solely on the use of child soldiers.
Analyst Phil Clark of the University of London says the scope and reach of the court remains limited.
“I think there’s growing skepticism about whether the ICC can change conflict dynamics on the ground. I think there’s a feeling that the court is still a very distanced institution. It’s based in the Hague. It doesn’t touch the lives of people on the ground,” Clark said.
In addition to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the ICC prosecutor has opened investigations into seven other situations in Africa.
Among them is the inquiry into the Lords’ Resistance Army in Uganda. Its leader, Joseph Kony, is also accused of forcibly recruiting tens of thousands of child soldiers.
Kony gained worldwide media attention in recent days after an online video highlighting the allegations against him went viral on the Internet.
But analyst Phil Clark says the court has been inconsistent in its targets.
“A good example of this recently is the fact that the ICC stood by while the Ugandan government fired on its civilians after the elections last year. That’s an example of a country that the ICC has been working in for a very long time, where there’s been no change in the conflict,” Clark said.
Three permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the US, Russia and China - have refused to sign up to the International Criminal Court, citing fears of politically-motivated prosecutions.
Clark says ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo is building a warmer relationship with President Obama.
“He’s very pleased that the U.S. has allowed investigations both in Darfur and also recently in Libya, which shows that the U.S. perhaps is warming to the ICC. But it’s only when those big powers come on board and are willing to subject their own personnel to prosecutions that we can argue that this has become a truly global institution,” Clark said.
Moreno-Ocampo leaves office in June, to be replaced by Fatou Bensouda of Gambia -- the first time an African will be the court's chief prosecutor.