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10 July 2012
The charity War Child is outraged by the weak sentencing of a Congolese warlord who forced child soldiers to serve in his militia; some of whom lives will have been irrevocably destroyed as a result: “Today’s sentencing puts the price of gross violations of children at 14 years which turns the ICC from a beacon of justice into a little more than a minor bureaucratic inconvenience”, says War Child CEO Rob Williams.
Today, the International Criminal Court sentenced Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga to just 14 years in prison - for his part in a conflict that has claimed an estimated 60,000 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Taking into account time spent in custody, Thomas Lubanga is to spend just 8 more years in prison, by which time he will only be 60 years old upon his release. War Child believes such a forgiving sentence makes a mockery of an international justice system for such grave violations and devalues children’s lives.
War Child is shocked by the gross misjudgment of the case that equates the exploitation of 3000 children to kill and pillage as a equal or lesser crime to domestic burglary or a property being destroyed respectively. The latter would receive a life sentence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. Taking a hostage also receives a life sentence under the Hostage Act of 1982 – what about 3000 of them, all of which are children? For this to be the result of the first ‘landmark case’, undermines the concept of proportional justice and is a severe setback to progress on International Justice.
As leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots from 1999 until his arrest in March 2005, Lubanga actively recruited children as young as 10 years old for his rebel army, deployed in the conflict between ethnic groups in Ituri the north eastern region of DRC.
Since 2004, War Child UK has been running projects with children and young people affected by the conflict in DRC, reacting to the sentence Rob Williams, CEO of War Child UK said:
“A sentence of just fourteen years is a gross disrespect to the children who were abducted and forced to fight and die in the name of Thomas Lubanga's rebel project. It puts the price of gross violations of children at 14 years which undermines the whole process and does little to deter rebel groups from recruiting child soldiers.
This sentence is particularly disappointing given the heroic efforts of campaigners and governments to get the ICC agreed, funded, and able to extend its jurisdiction to conflict areas. And for those many people who risk their lives to bring him Lubanga justice, it raises questions about the credibility of the International Criminal Court.”