Human rights groups hail ICC's ruling on Lubanga
Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 14:20
This is the first ever ruling delivered by the ICC since it was founded in 2002, Xinhua news agency reported.
Lubanga, ex-president of the Unions des Patriotes Congolaise, was found guilty of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them as active participants in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) in 2002 and 2003.
The 51-year-old former rebel leader, whose trial started in January 2009, became the first person ever arrested under a warrant issued by the ICC in 2006.
"I want to acknowledge that charges against Lubanga have shined the international spotlight on the plight of child soldiers who are currently used in 15 countries," Param-Preet Singh, a senior member at the international justice program for Human Rights Watch, told a press conference here.
Singh said that the trial was important for those child soldiers that were forced in Lubanga's armed group and who "waited a long time to see him judged for his crimes."
Renzo Pomi, representative of the Amnesty International at the UN, said the Lubanga verdict is "a big step forward in the struggle against impunity perpetrators have enjoyed for crimes under international law."
"Unfortunately, the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict continues to this day in the northeast and east of the DRC (DR Congo) and in other places," he said.
Pomi stated that he thought the ICC could have gone further in its charges against Lubanga by pursuing allegations of sexual violence by the rebel leader, including against abducted girl soldiers.
"This narrow focus of the prosecutor's investigation strategy could be construed as a missed opportunity for the ICC to deliver justice but also may have precluded more victims from participating in trials and from obtaining reparations," said Pomi.
As for reparations for Lubanga's child soldier victims, Pomi said that 24 people have applied for some sort of compensation or restitution.
"My organisation hopes that the ICC will proceed to the reparation phase by conducting outreach to inform other eligible victims about the process and how to apply," he said.
"Given ongoing delays in processing victims application, the ICC should allocate additional resources to ensure that all eligible victims are able to seek reparation," he added.