14 March 2012

Congolese warlord convicted in first ICC verdict

On the heels of the launch of the new Kony 2012 campaign by the group Invisible Children, another African warlord is getting his just deserts.

Today, in its first-ever trial verdict, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of having committed the war crimes of "conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years ... and using them to participate actively in hostilities" in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between September 2002 and August 2003.

In other words, he forced children into a life as child soldiers. And those children will never get those years back.

Sentencing will occur at a later date. Meanwhile, the defense has the right to appeal the decision.

"Depending on whether an appeal is made and on its outcome, today's decision should be remembered as a critical turning point in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes known to humankind," said William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court - a global network of more than 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries advocating for a fair, effective and independent ICC and improved access to justice for victims of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

"The horrendous and repeated instances of violence of the past century, not least against those most vulnerable in society, have necessitated the establishment of an international criminal court, and the Coalition has been working for many years towards this moment when justice has finally been delivered to some of the victims of these grave crimes through the ICC," Pace added. "Moreover, the continued prosecution of the crime of using child soldiers - of which this case forms a vital part - is having a real impact on government policy worldwide."

Kudos to the ICC for making this happen. This case sets a powerful precedent.

The ICC is currently also pursuing cases against other Congolese individuals, as well as situations in Uganda (i.e., the case against Kony and his cohorts); the Central African Republic; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; and the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire.

Stay tuned for updates, with fingers crossed for some justice for all of the victims in these cases.

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