The International Criminal Court issued its first sentence July 10, against the Democratic Republic of Congo's Thomas Lubanga Dyilo who was convicted for war crimes, for "conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities."
Leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in prison, minus the time he has spent in custody.
Despite sexual violence featuring prominently in witness testimony against Lubanga, gender violence was not brought as a separate charge. Trial judges criticized the prosecutors for failing to separate sexual violence within the trial, despite the overwhelming evidence of widespread rape and gender violence by Lubanga's militia.
‘This judgment is a strong signal to all those who committed serious human rights violations’, said the Ligue pour la solidarité Congolaise (LSC), an organization based in North Kivu that works with more than 1,500 victims/survivors and is one of Women’s Initiatives’ key country-based partners. ‘However’, LSC added, ‘the most surprising aspect of this decision is the absence of charges for sexual and gender-based violence in a case involving the leader of a militia known for committing rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence. Many women’s and victims’ rights defenders were very shocked to see that the women and girls who were raped by militia men and the other women and girls who were forced to join the armed group of the UPC, some of whom even had children as a consequence of rape, had been ignored by the charging document of the Prosecutor.’
In a press release, André Kito, coordinator of the DRC Coalition for the ICC, noted that “...civil society organizations and victims still regret that the scope of charges was not broad enough since other crimes perpetrated such as sexual violence […] We are also frustrated that sexual violence was not considered at sentencing as an aggravating factor due to the absence of any evidence presented to the Chamber.”
Nonetheless, the conviction marks a milestone for the Court as its first sentence, during the ICC's 10 year anniversary.
The ICC has brought charges against a number of other militia leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui are currently facing trial at the Hague for charges including rape and sexual slavery. An arrest warrant for rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda has been issued, with charges of sexual violence recently added.
"DR Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga sentenced to 14 years," BBC News, 10 July 2012.
"First Sentence: Lubanga Dyilo Sentence to 14 Years at the ICC," Amnesty International, 10 July 2012.
"The ICC Convicts Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for War Crimes - Reactions from DRC Partners," The Lubanga Trial, 11 July 2012.