he Hague—Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC)—the world’s first permanent international court to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide has sentenced former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga to 14 years imprisonment in the Court’s first landmark trial.
Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford stated that the majority of the Chamber had decided to sentence Lubanga to 14 years imprisonment in total for the conscription, enlistment and use of children as soldiers. A combination of mitigating factors – including the cooperation of the defendant – and a lack of aggravating factors, including an absence of evidence presented to the Chamber regarding sexual and gender-related violence, meant that a maximum sentence of 30 years would be inappropriate according to the judges.
He went on to explain that the six years Lubanga had already served in detention in The Hague since March 2006 had been taken into account in the Chamber’s decision and would be deducted from the total sentence. This means Lubanga will serve a total of eight years in prison. The Chamber declined to deduct the period that Lubanga spent in detention in the DRC, between 2003-2006, stating that there was insufficient evidence he had been detained for the same crimes. The Chamber also found that it would be inappropriate to impose a fine given the financial situation of Lubanga.
Judge Odio Benito gave a dissenting opinion on the sentencing, disagreeing with the decision saying it disregards the damage caused to victims and their families, particularly as a result of the harsh punishments and sexual violence suffered and believing that the sentence should be 15 years.
Although a number of states—including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, United Kingdom and Serbia—have declared their willingness to accept sentenced persons by the ICC, it has not yet been decided where Lubanga will serve out his sentence.