- Jun 18, 2004
- retired computer geek
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The International Criminal Court convicted a Congolese warlord on Wednesday of using child soldiers, a verdict hailed as a legal landmark in the fight against impunity for the world's most serious crimes.
Human rights advocates said the guilty verdicts against Thomas Lubanga -- the first judgment in the court's 10-year history -- should stand as a clear deterrent to armies around the world not to conscript children.
"In this age of global media, today's verdict will reach warlords and commanders across the world and serve as a strong deterrent," the U.N.'s special representative for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said in a statement. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the verdict as "an important step forward" in moves to prosecute crimes against children in armed conflict, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Lubanga will be sentenced following a hearing that will be scheduled later this year. He faces a maximum of life imprisonment. The judgment came at a time when the court is under scrutiny for its inability to arrest key war crimes suspects and its impotence in not being able to intervene in the bloody conflict raging in Syria.
The court was catapulted into the limelight last week by the viral video Kony 2012, which highlighted how it still has not had Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony arrested nearly seven years after indicting him for crimes including using child soldiers, murder and torture.
The court has no police force of its own and has to rely on states to enforce its arrest warrants.
It also can only open investigations in the 120 countries that have recognized its jurisdiction or at the request of the U.N. Security Council. Nations including the United States, China, Russia and Syria are not members. That means it can't launch a probe into widespread allegations that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are systematically committing atrocities to put down an anti-government revolt.
So far, all seven of the investigations launched by the court are in Africa.
The highest profile suspects among five in custody are former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and ex-Congo Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted for genocide in Darfur but refuses to surrender to the court.