* Based on the ICC Press Release ICC-CPI-20120314-PR776 of 14 March 2012 (available here)
Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided unanimously that Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is guilty, as a co-perpetrator, of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003. This is the first verdict issued by an ICC Trial Chamber. Lubanga, a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was transferred to The Hague on 17 March 2006, pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I. His trial, the first at the ICC, started on 26 January 2009 and the closing statements were presented by the parties and participants on 25 and 26 August 2011.
Movie star and UN Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie attended the reading of the verdict. Her presence at the hearing was Ms Jolie’s fourth visit to the ICC and third appearance at the Lubanga trial proceedings. In addition to attending the testimony of a victim, a child soldier, and attending closing arguments in the case, Ms Jolie funded the Lubanga Chronicles (for more on her remarks see here).
It took six years from the date of his transferral to The Hague to the rendering of the verdict (for the case information sheet see here). At the request of Mr Lubanga Dyilo, and in accordance with article 76(2) of the Rome Statute, the Chamber will hold a separate sentencing hearing. The Chamber will, furthermore, establish the principles that are to be applied to reparations for victims. The defence is entitled to appeal the conviction within 30 days of receiving the French translation of the Judgment.
He was charged on two counts of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. The present war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities were committed in the context of an internal armed conflict that took place in the Ituri (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and involved the Force patriotique pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Force for the Liberation of the Congo) (FPLC), led by Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, against the Armée Populaire Congolaise and other militias, including the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri. A common plan was agreed by Mr Lubanga Dyilo and his co-perpetrators to build an army for the purpose of establishing and maintaining political and military control over Ituri. This resulted in boys and girls under the age of 15 being conscripted and enlisted, and used to participate actively in hostilities.
Mr Lubanga Dyilo was the President of the Union des patriotes congolais (Union of Congolese Patriots) (UPC), the Commander-in-Chief of its military wing, the FPLC, and its political leader. He exercised an overall coordinating role regarding the activities of the UPC/FPLC and he actively supported recruitment initiatives, for instance by giving speeches to the local population and the recruits. Furthermore, he personally used children below the age of 15 amongst his bodyguards and he regularly saw guards of other UPC/FPLC staff members who were below the age of 15. The Chamber, comprising Judge Adrian Fulford (presiding judge), Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito and Judge René Blattmann, found that the evidence presented by the Prosecutor establishes beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Lubanga Dyilo’s contribution was essential to the common plan.
Over the course of 204 days of hearings, the Trial Chamber has delivered 275 written decisions and orders and 347 oral decisions. The Chamber heard 36 witnesses, including 3 experts, called by the Office of the Prosecutor, 24 witnesses called by the defence and 3 witnesses called by the legal representatives of the victims participating in the proceedings. The Chamber also called 4 experts. A total of 129 victims, represented by two teams of legal representatives and the Office of Public Counsel for Victims, were granted the right to participate in the trial. They have been authorised to present submissions and to examine witnesses on specific issues. The Prosecution submitted 368 items of evidence, the Defence 992, and the legal representatives of victims 13.
The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. At present, 15 cases have been brought before the Court in the context of 7 situations that are currently under investigation: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan), Kenya, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. The ICC Judges have issued 20 warrants of arrest (2 withdrawn following the death of the suspects) and 9 summonses to appear. Currently, five individuals are in the ICC custody and 11 suspects remain at large.