Thomas Lubanga – responsible for abducting over 3,000 children into his rebel army –has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment; making him the first person to be successfully prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Lubanga led the Union on Congolese Patriots (UPC), which was one of 6 military groups that fought for control over Ituri’s gold-rich land and resources. The war is thought to have left over 60,000 people dead through conflict, lack of food and disease, as well as leaving thousands homeless.
The court heard how children between the ages of 8 and 15 years old, were taken to military training camps –some beaten and drugged –while girls were often used as sex slaves.
They were also told that Lubanga would visit people’s homes and ask them to donate towards his war effort; demanding children, money, or cattle.
“I have no child soldiers in our ranks”, Lubanga told reporters before he was arrested. “Some of them look younger than they are”.
Two video footages were used as evidence, showing Lubanga goading young children at a military camp and another showing them working as bodyguards.
During the trial a former child solider came forward as a witness, but after seeing his former captor sitting in the room, he couldn’t give any evidence to the court.
Since Lubanga has already spent 6 years in the court’s detention centre, this period will be deducted from his sentence, meaning that he will serve a further 8 years in prison.
Sunil Pal, from the ICC, commented that the sentence was “a significantly important decision. It’s important for the court, it’s important for the victims who participated, but it’s also further condemnation of a crime that has been committed throughout the region”.
Others however, such as Mike Davis, from human rights organisation Global Witness, said that although the decision was “an important development”, it was “a rather low sentence in relation to the crimes that he committed”.