Lubanga’s verdict only first step towards justice for victims
The International Criminal Court (ICC) today issued its first-ever verdict, finding Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of the war crime of enlisting and conscripting children under 15 into the Forces Patriotiques Pour la Liberation du Congo (FPLC) and using them actively in hostilities in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003.
Please find below a statement from Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS:
“This is a very positive decision as it shows that the ICC is capable of delivering justice to victims of these horrendous crimes on the ground, who have been awaiting justice and reparations for close to 10 years. This was not an easy case and it wasn‟t at all certain what was going to happen. The Trial Chamber stopped the proceedings on two separate occasions for serious flaws in the prosecution‟s practice relating to the disclosure of evidence. On both occasions, victims in DRC were finding „international justice‟ a hard and long process to swallow.
In rendering the summary in Court today, presiding Judge Adrian Fulford also explained some of the problems with the prosecution‟s use of intermediaries, which the Court termed, negligent‟ when referring to the practice of delegating certain investigative responsibilities to local actors; some of the evidence produced in this way was disqualified as tainted.
The security situation was certainly highly challenging and the prosecution did not have unlimited resources, but it would seem that its strategy ended up being like Russian roulette.
We hope that the Court‟s comments lead to some careful reflection about how the ICC can work with intermediaries with greater care. Intermediaries are vital to the processes of the Court and the answer cannot be to avoid using them. The prosecutor needs to do more to ensure that the process is clear and more transparent.
Other issues to note are the finding of the judges that girls recruited into rebel forces were subjected to regular acts of rape and sexual violence, but as these did not form the basis of the prosecutor‟s charges, the Court did not make any finding of culpability for sexual violence.
This is an unfortunate result of the overly narrow charging policy of the prosecution. It will be interesting to hear what the separate and dissenting opinions have to say about this. What is next in store? Let us make sure there are no reprisal attacks on victims and witnesses in the field where Thomas Lubanga’s henchmen still wield influence.
This is an issue of utmost importance. Protection measures need to remain in place in order to protect those who had the courage to come forward. Let us also look forward to the sentencing hearing and the first ever reparations proceeding before the ICC. In that regard, substantial efforts will be needed to reach out to victims on the ground.
Some of the victims, living in the more remote locations, remain with little information, even on this important day, as activists in Ituri said to us today.
Further efforts are needed to execute the outstanding arrest warrants in DRC (Bosco Ntaganda) and elsewhere, and much more needs to be done locally to ensure that justice and security can prevail in this beautiful but war-torn country”.
As the leader of the Union Congolese Patriots (UPC) and the commander-in-chief of its military wing, the Forces Patriotiques Pour la Libération du Congo (FPLC), Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was accused of the war crime of conscripting, enlisting and actively using children under the age of 15 in hostilities in Ituri between September 2002 and August 2003.
On Wednesday 14 March 2012, the ICC judges found that the evidence presented in the trial had established “beyond reasonable doubt” that Lubanga was guilty of this war crime.
The road was far from smooth to get to this first conviction. Congolese authorities transferred Lubanga to the ICC in March 2006 and his trial began on 26 January 2009. Almost two years passed between the ICC‟s decision to confirm the charges against Lubanga on 29 January 2007 and the trial‟s opening. The case was also delayed twice after the judges imposed stays in response to the Office of the Prosecutor‟s failure to disclose information to the defence.
In the coming months, the ICC will sentence Lubanga and consider submissions in relation to reparation for victims. Today‟s judgement can be appealed by both the defence and the prosecution. Lubanga is the first person to be convicted by the ICC. Two other trials are under way (for crimes in DRC and the Central African Republic), and charges have been confirmed in three more cases.
The Lubanga case set important precedents in international criminal proceedings. He was the first person to be arrested on an ICC arrest warrant and also the first person convicted by the ICC. It has also set important precedents for victims. For the first time in the history of international criminal justice, victims had the opportunity to present evidence as well as their views and concerns before the ICC in their own name and not only as witnesses for the prosecution.
Victims made a significant contribution during the trial. A total of 129 victims were allowed to participate in the proceedings. Victims‟ participation was crucial, for example, to raise concerns about the limited nature of the charges against Lubanga.
In 2009, victims‟ representatives brought a motion asking the judges to include new charges of sexual slavery and cruel and inhuman treatment that they argued better reflected sexual violence against female child soldiers. Unfortunately, the Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber decision to allow these additional charges in December 2009.
For further information:
Eva Sanchis, Communications Officer, at [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7793 1777.
REDRESS was founded by a British torture survivor in 1992. Since then, it has consistently fought for the rights of torture survivors and their families in the UK and abroad. REDRESS, along with others, played a role in ensuring that key provisions for victims were incorporated into the Rome Statute which established the ICC.
We are also currently the informal coordinator of the Victims’ Rights Working Group, a network of 400 national and international organisations and experts that advocates on victim’s issues before the ICC (www.vrwg.org).