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Judgment against a warlord

June 13, 2012

The outgoing prosecutor at the international Criminal court ( ICC) in the Hague, proposed for a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail against former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga.

Image: AP

"The prosecution requests the chamber to impose a sentence of 30 years in prison," Luis Moreno-Ocampo told judges before the Hague-based court.

The 51 year old  Lubanga was convicted in March of recruiting and using child soldiers to fight in an atrocious war between 2002 and 2003 in the north-eastern region of the DRC.

Children with guns in their hands
Lubanga was convicted of recruiting Child soldiers in the DRCImage: picture-alliance/dpa

For more than five years, the warlord Lubanga has been on trial in the Hague, having been arrested in 2006 by the Congolese authorities and subsequently extradited to the Hague to face trial for crimes committed  in the DR-Congo.

Child soldiers and sex slaves

The Congolese warlord was  found guilty  of using Children between the age 11 and 15 from the Ituri region to fight for the "Union of Congolese Patriots" (UPC) a movement in which Thomas Lubanga was a leader. Children were forced to kill and taken on as sex slaves.

"What really matters for me is the punishment. It is about about children, who were turned into killers," said chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo during the hearings in early 2009.  Since then there were 220 hearings held. For the first time the victims of the militias were considered as co-plaintiffs in an International court.

Lubanga is one of the main actors of the conflict in Ituri district in north-east region of the Congo, which broke out  in the late 90’s between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. The conflict turned out to be bloody and resulted into 60,000 deaths.

A picture of Thomas Lubanga
The ICC asks for a 30 year jail sentence against Thomas LubangaImage: AP

Lubanga was the founder of the Hema-dominated UPC and as commander of its military arm, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). The militias are responsible for numerous massacres in Ituri.

Delays in the trial
The trial of Thomas Lubanga has been interrupted twice. The court criticised the prosecutors of its decision to keep the identity of its witnesses in the Congo secret. However the defense was given access to the files, but the names of the witnesses remained secret.

Young men standing next to a mass grave
Conflicts in North eastern region of the DRC has left 60,000 dead.Image: AP

The process was resumed in August 2011 for closing arguments between the prosecution and the defense.

Apart from rebel leader Lubanga, other suspected criminals from Congo, Kenya, Uganda and the Ivory Coast are yet to appear before the court to answer charges allegedly committed in their respective countries.

Others whose arrest warrants have been issued are Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of former Libyan ruler.

Author: Isaac Mugabi, with additional material from Julia Hahn (AFP, DPA)
Editor: Asumpta Lattus