4 October 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Lubanga to Appeal ICC Conviction but Prosecutor Wants Him to Get Longer Jail Term

Photo: RNW
Thomas Lubanga (file photo).

Thomas Lubanga, the first person convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), wants to appeal his conviction and the 14-year jail sentence handed to him last July by trial judges. However, the prosecution has also filed a notice to appeal for his sentence to be revised upwards.

Although ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda did not state how many years the prosecution would ask for, it is noteworthy that former prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo recommended a 30-year prison sentence during Mr. Lubanga's sentencing hearing.

On March 14, 2012, Trial Chamber I presided over by Judge Adrian Fulford found Mr. Lubanga guilty as a co-perpetrator of recruiting, conscripting, and using child soldiers in the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC). The judges found that these children were actively used in an armed conflict during 2002 and 2003 in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the judges, some of the child soldiers served as bodyguards to Mr. Lubanga, the UPC president.

Judges Fulford, Elizabeth Odio Benito, and René Blattmann sentenced Mr. Lubanga to a jail term of 14 years. However, because he had been in court detention for six years at the time of the sentencing, he would only have to serve a little under eight years. The accused would not make any monetary reparations to victims as court found him to be indigent.

On October 3, 2012, lawyers for the Congolese militia leader filed two notices of intention to appeal. In the notice to appeal the guilty verdict, lead defense lawyer Catherine Mabille says the defense will be asking for a reversal of the decision and the acquittal of Mr. Lubanga. In the second notice, the defense states that it intends to ask appeal judges to set aside the sentence decision delivered on July 10, 2012 and cancel or reduce the sentence against Mr. Lubanga.

It is on the same day that Ms. Bensouda informed judges of the prosecution's intention to appeal Mr. Lubanga's sentence.

In determining the sentence, trial judges said they took into consideration the gravity of the crimes and extent of damage caused and in particular "the harm caused to the victims and their families, the nature of the unlawful behavior and the means employed to execute the crime."

Moreover, the judges took into consideration the degree of participation of the convicted person; the degree of intent; the circumstances of manner, time, and location; and the age, education, social and economic condition of the convicted person.

Mr. Lubanga's trial was the first to be conducted at the ICC and is the only one that has seen a verdict delivered by trial judges. Three other Congolese nationals, Germain Katanga, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, and Jean-Pierre Bemba are also on trial at the court based in The Hague.

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