News / Africa

ICC Sentences Congolese Warlord to 14 Years in Prison

Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga awaits his sentence in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, July 10, 2012.
Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga awaits his sentence in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, July 10, 2012.
Lisa Bryant
PARIS — In its first sentencing, the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) handed a 14-year prison term to former warlord Thomas Lubanga for recruiting and using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  It's unclear whether Lubanga will appeal.

Rights groups cheered the Lubanga' sentencing, even though the jail term was far less than the 30 years prosecutors had requested. 

"The trial and the sentence has sent a very strong message about the seriousness of the crime of recruiting children and using them in war," said Human Rights Watch's (HRW) senior researcher Anneke van Woudenberg.

Reading out the sentence, presiding International Criminal Court Judge Adrian Fulford gave Lubanga prison terms of 13, 12 and 14 years respectively for conscripting, enlisting and using child soldiers. Those sentences will be served concurrently, with an overall sentence of 14 years.  Deducted from that term will be time Lubanga spent in pre-trial detention since 2006.  

Lubanga worked as a teacher and trader before leading a rebel group in Congo's gold-rich eastern Ituri province.  In March, the Hague court found him guilty of recruiting boys and girls under 15 years old and using them in war.  In his sentencing, Judge Fulford underscored the seriousness of the crime.

"The vulnerability of children mean that they need to be afforded particular protection that does not apply to the general population," said the judge. "The principal historical objective underlying the prohibition against the use of child soldiers is to protect children under the age of 15 of the risks that are associated with armed conflict.  And particularly they are directed at securing their physical and psychological well being."

Judge Fulford also harshly criticized the prosecution's handling of the case.  Among other shortcomings, he said, it failed to prove sexual crimes were committed or that Lubanga had been involved in them.

Human Rights Watch's van Woudenberg also expressed disappointment in the prosecution.

"I do think the prosecutor should have brought additional charges against Lubanga.  His group did not just recruit child soldiers and use them in hostilities, but they also carried out widespread massacres, torture and rape," said van Woudenberg.

Lubanga's is the first sentence delivered by the 10-year-old criminal court.  Two other Congolese militia leaders, who fought against Lubanga, face trial on similar charges.  HRW's Van Woudenberg said Lubanga's sentence shines a spotlight on yet another militia leader, Bosco Ntaganda, who is also accused of recruiting child soldiers in the Ituri region.  The ICC has a warrant out for his arrest.

Photo Gallery of Child Soldiers
  • Experts estimate between 7,000 and 10,000 child soldiers operate in Chad in the national army, rebel and militia groups. Globally, the U.N. Children's Fund UNICEF believes there are some 250,000 child soldiers.
  • Seven child fighters are seen at a Save the Children compound in Bunia, Congo, June, 2003, after they left a militia army. Some 50 percent of tribal fighters in Ituri are children aged less than 18 years of age.
  • A young Sudan People's Liberation Army child soldier holds a gun during the demobilization of soldiers at Rumbek, southern Sudan.
  • African countries where the United Nations says armed groups have persistantly used child soldiers in the last five years.
  • A Save the Children report counted 33 armed conflicts, many of them civil wars, where children have been fighting. Save the Children is promoting a U.N. pact that would raise the minimum recruitment age to 17.
  • A Chadian army child soldier is seen in Am Timan, Chad. Chad pledged in May of 2007 to work to demobilize hundreds of child soldiers fighting in the ranks of the government army and rebel groups across conflict-torn central Africa.
  • Child soldiers take a rest as they wait for instructions in an ethnic Hema militia camp near Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, June, 2003.

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Comment Sorting
by: Winsor from: Florida
July 10, 2012 4:46 PM
I hope other warlord learn from the verdict that the behavior will not be tolerated. You just simple can't use children as human shield; you just can't do that...!
In Response

by: Aaron Chaney from: US
July 30, 2012 12:02 PM
To whom it may concern,

as a concerned citizen of the world and watcher thereof of world events, let it be duly noted that forthwith a continuous message emanates from certain spokesmen from governments throughout the middle east region whereby they have spoken openly of arming specific individuals and as well groups so marked and identified as terrorists by the Syrian government.

Be forewarned that this constitutes a breach of international law which you are bound to uphold in your delegated capacity and a lack to act in accordance with your apparent description as a judicial international law enforcement entity will undermine and bring into question the legitimacy of your organization.

The primary quarters from whence these parties have made statements that are geared towards the arming of terrorists and overthrow of a democratically elected government are to wit: Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

To finalize, let the historical record reflect that you have NOW been officially informed and will be henceforth monitored to determine whether your ICC organization is worthy to perform your continued duties or whether you should be subsequently disavowed as an internationally recognized body.

Aaron Chaney.

by: MichaelFromSeattle from: Hermosillo, Mexico
July 10, 2012 1:50 PM
Conscripting children into military service is, in my opinion, a grave crime. However I cannot bring myself to blanketly condemn their being utilized as volunteer soldiers, recognizing that they may have very valid reasons for wanting to enlist.

by: Anonymous
July 10, 2012 1:49 PM

by: Harold from: Washington
July 10, 2012 1:48 PM
gee they can go after african "warlords" but they can't protect kids in the united states from being sold as sex slaves to the reagan and bush administration ....hmmmm

by: Vahid Tarzan from: California
July 10, 2012 1:29 PM
Time served.

by: Art Stone from: United States
July 10, 2012 1:20 PM
So this 10 year old "global" court set up in the very heart of Western Europe to fight "crimes against humanity" has as its only "conviction" a black African "war lord" who has been sitting in jail for 6 years awaiting his trial.

In Response

by: anne.white from: Canada
July 10, 2012 1:41 PM
And your point is? This is not racism. Waiting for 6 years may be punitive, but how long had Milosevic been waiting? This has nothing to do with race. It's about disgusting child abuse. Hopefully more prosecutions will be coming. Please, please, stop playing the race card. It doesn't help your cause. Whoever uses children to further their ends should be prosecuted. In Africa at present, most folks are black so they are the ones who are arrested. In Europe the war crimes are done by white people and they too are prosecuted. So once again -your point is...?

by: ogre12 from: world
July 10, 2012 1:16 PM
this man is an evil monster as far as I am concerned..but ultimately it is between him and Christ. My bet is on Jesus.

by: nemo
July 10, 2012 12:53 PM
The new world order now has teeth and can punish legally instead of covertly. You think this good? And who will punish them?
In Response

by: Brock MacLean from: Vancouver Canada
July 10, 2012 2:19 PM
Another kook about the New world least this jerk will do some time...not enough and certainly too late...but its a start.

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