The International Criminal Court has just this morning handed down it’s first ever verdict, finding Thomas Lubanga guilty of conscripting child soldiers. Lubanga was the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots and stands accused of being the military authority behind the abduction of children as young as eleven to serve the Patriotic Forces of the Liberation of Congo in the 1998-2003 war. Lubanga was handed over in 2006, the first suspect to be detained by the ICC, and has been on trial since 2009.
This guilty verdict is great for the DR Congo and wonderful for the International Criminal Court. Last year former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz told ICC judges: “Let the voice and the verdict of this esteemed global court now speak for the awakened conscience of the world.”
Photo: Ed Oudenaarden/AP.
[AJ English Twitter; Al Jazeera; AP]
I think the last time I wrote about the ICC proceedings against Lubanga was back in 2010, when the trial was suspended in order to ensure that proper procedures were being followed. As I wrote back then:
Regardless of Lubanga’s guilt (which really doesn’t seem to be in much doubt), the Court is setting an important precedent here: instead of proceeding with a trial that might later be decried as sham justice, the ICC is putting its foot down now … about the fair trial standards that must be followed. The prosecution cannot keep information from the defense and it cannot flout the Court’s orders, not if we’re to look back on these trials and confirm that justice was done.
With so much talk in the past week about Joseph Kony — another warlord indicted by the ICC for conscripting child soldiers — it’s good to see the the Lubanga trial brought to a close with a guilty verdict. International justice efforts, though still slow and selective, are beginning to take a toll on the long-standing culture of impunity for human rights abuses.
Of course, the only way to see more criminals in the dock is to arrest them …