Congo warlord jailed for 14 yrs in epic case

Lubanga sentenced for recruiting child soldiers in first sentence by International Criminal Court

Delivering its first sentence, the International Criminal Court jailed Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for 14 years on Tuesday for recruiting child soldiers.

The Hague-based court was set up a decade ago to punish and discourage the world’s worst crimes through a system of international justice, but its critics say it has moved too slowly and failed to put its most important suspects on trial.

Lubanga was found guilty of abducting boys and girls under the age of 15 and forcing them to fight in a war in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo. At least 60,000 people are thought to have been killed.

“The trial and sentence handed down sends a strong message to those who recruit and use children during times of war,” said Anneke van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch.

But taking into account the six years Lubanga spent in detention during the trial, Lubanga’s sentence has only eight years to run. He could get parole earlier.

Critics of the International Criminal Court questioned how big an achievement it could claim from sentencing Lubanga. “If you’d said at the beginning, this court would finish one trial in 10 years, and that would be for a secondary offence like using child soldiers, people would have said they won’t waste their money on it,” said William Schabas, a law professor at Middlesex University.

Some Congolese were also disappointed in Lubanga’s sentence, which compares to the 50 years handed down in May by another court in The Hague to former Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes in Sierra Leone.

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