In the first ever verdict from the Intenational Criminal Court, the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga has been found guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers. Lubanga, who could be gaoled for life, will be sentenced at a later date.
The court was set up 10 years ago, and Lubanga was arrested in 2005. The prosecution say he armed children as young as nine during a bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lubanga’s forces were active in the conflict in Ituri in the north-east of the country in which 60,000 people are said to have been killed.
Three other men accused of war crimes in Ituri are still at large. While some have bemoaned the length of time it has taken for the court to secure its first conviction, Amnesty International said it proved there was a way of calling to account those whom national authorities have failed to prosecute.
Two other Congolese militia leaders are currently being tried, as is the former vice-president of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, for alleged war crimes in the Central African Republic.
(See also my blogs of January 23 and 29, and March 23, 2009, Sept 3 and 9, 2010, May 9, 2011.)