DR Congo: Lubanga trial is of historical importance

“The trial of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, which begins on January 26, is considered a milestone for human rights, international justice, and the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague”, the Nowregian council for Afrika reports citing the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.

The iwpr writes: “The Lubanga trial will be the first international court case in which the use of child soldiers, defined as children under the age of 15, is prosecuted as a crime of war. Child soldiers have been used in most wars fought in Africa and other continents over the past three decades.

Children across Africa, including Uganda, Liberia, Zimbabwe, and Democratic Republic of Congo, have been turned into killing machines in conflicts whose motivations and origins they scarcely understand. The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo explained the significance of the charges saying, “Turning children into killers jeopardises the future of mankind.”

A sealed warrant for Lubanga’s arrest was issued in February 2006, but he was not apprehended until March 17, 2006 when the warrant was made public. Lubanga was transferred to the ICC’s prison in The Hague, and his first court appearance was on March 20 that year. The arrest of Lubanga was part of a wide-ranging and on-going investigation by the ICC into atrocities in DRC. Lubanga stands accused of “enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen and using them to participate actively in hostilities”.

Children’s organisations and human rights activists welcomed the arraignment of Lubanga as a step toward the protection of children’s rights and a first step towards ending impunity. Gender justice groups, however, are frustrated that only charges of recruiting child soldiers have been bought against Lubanga. They say his militia is responsible for rape and other forms of sexual violence”.

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