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ICC’s First Conviction: A Milestone in International Law and Human Rights

This week has seen a major milestone in International Law and Human Rights with the ICC’s first conviction. Thomas Lubanga, who recruited and used child soldiers was sentenced to 14 years for Congo war crimes. An indepth story and video can be found on the Guardian website.

Thomas Lubanga sentenced to 14 years for Congo war crimes

The international criminal court sentences Thomas Lubanga to 14 years in prison Link to this video

The international criminal court has handed down its first sentence, jailing for 14 years a Congolese warlord who recruited and used child soldiers.

Thomas Lubanga was found guilty in March of abducting boys and girls under the age of 15 and forcing them to fight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo‘s eastern Ituri region in 2002-2003.

Lubanga, 51, is the first person convicted by the permanent war crimes tribunal.

The prosecution had asked for a “severe sentence” of 30 years. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, then chief prosecutor, said it was seeking the punishment “in the name of each child recruited, in the name of the Ituri region”.

But the prosecution also said it would be willing to cut the sentence to 20 years if Lubanga offered a “genuine apology” to victims of his crimes.

Children as young as 11 were recruited from their homes and schools to take part in brutal ethnic fighting in 2002-03. They were taken to military training camps and beaten and drugged. Girls were used as sex slaves.

Lubanga had pleaded his innocence and said he had not supported the use of child soldiers by the Union of Congolese Patriots militia. But in a unanimous decision, the judges said Lubanga was responsible.

Now there is much to debate about a 14 year sentence for war crimes…but it is also a major milestone that we have our first official conviction. While it is not without controversy and far from perfect, the creation of the ICC is an important element in the “development of the human rights regime” as well as the international/global oversight that John 23rd pointed out in Pacem in Terris needed to be developed.

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