Tag Archives: child soldiers

Posts related to the war crime of recruiting, using or conscripting child soldiers at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Court Establishes Reparations Process

Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a 94 page decision describing the process for victims to collect reparations. The order, issued following the decision to sentence Thomas Lubanga Dyilo to 14 years imprisonment after having been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity as leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots for conscripting and using child soldiers in his rebel army in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The court ordered that most of the processing of claims be delegated to the Trust Fund for Victims which welcomed its new role in a statement. The trust fund reports that it has €1.2 million in its fund for reparations, and that 85 victims have made application for reparations in the Lubanga case and more than 8,000 victims overall.  All applications are to be turned over to the trust fund, though the court will maintain oversight and approve the details.  The court described “five step process:”

First, the TFV, the Registry, the OPCV and the experts, should establish which
localities ought to be involved in the reparations process in the present case
(focusing particularly on the places referred to in the Judgment and especially
where the crimes committed).  Although the Chamber referred in the Article
74 Decision to several particular localities, the reparations programme is not
limited to those that were mentioned. Second, there should be a process of
consultation in the localities that are identified. Third, an assessment of harm
should be carried out during this consultation phase by the team of experts.
Fourth, public debates should be held in each locality in order to explain the
reparations principles and procedures, and to address the victims’
expectations. The final step is the collection of proposals for collective
reparations that are to be developed in each locality, which are then to be
presented to the Chamber for its approval.

The American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, (AMICC) reviewed and discussed the decision here, noting:

The Chamber noted that since Thomas Lubanga was found to be indigent, reparations will be financed by the Trust Fund for Victims, which tends towards collective reparation

Suggestions by victims and victims groups about the form reparations should take seemed to fall into three categories: reparations to empower victims economically and to stimulate local economic development, reparations to help heal the physical and mental health of victims, and symbolically (sic) reparations like a memorial.

The Trust Fund for Victims welcomed its substantial role in the reparations process and hailed the decision as “a historic milestone for victims of international crimes.” The Fund was set up by the ICC’s governing body, the Assembly of State’s Parties (ASP) in 2002 and currently has a total income of $5.5 million. $2.7 million has been set aside for grants in the DRC and Uganda.

Although the Chamber’s decision is not binding on future cases, the principles and procedures set out may be used by future Trial Chambers where they are practicable. It is possible that in a future case, where a defendant has means, a Trial Chamber may order individual reparations, or a combination of individual and collective reparations.

It appears from the decision that the direction of the court is to order collective rather than individual reparations. If the test is whether or not a convicted party has the means to make whole the victims of the kind of mass atrocities that would come before the court, then it is hard to imagine the defendant with the resources to make to make whole hundreds or thousands of victims after having spent some time in pre-trial detention, trial and appeal.

Lubanga was the first person to be tried, convicted and sentenced by the court, as previously described on this blog:

 Lubanga was brought to the court in May of 2006, his trial began in January 2009.  The defense began presenting its case in January 2010.  The case was stopped in 2009 to consider the addition of charges at the request of victims, and for other reasons throughout the trial, failure to disclose evidence by the prosecution, transcription and translation errors, and other issues.  The case was submitted to the court after closing arguments in August 2011.

At one point, the trial chamber ordered Lubanga released, finding that he could not have a fair trial because of the failure of the prosecution to disclose evidence and comply with court orders.  That decision was overturned by the appeals chamber and the trial resumed.

 

Court Video on the Reparations Decision (In French).

Lubanga Sentenced to 14 Years

Schevingen Prison in The Hague, Netherlands, where prisoners spend pre-trial detention.

 

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the first accused brought to the International Criminal Court, has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for the war crimes of recruiting, conscripting and enlisting child soldiers in his rebel army in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Union of Congolese Patriots.  The court announced the guilty verdict in March.

As previously blogged here:

Lubanga was the first accused brought into the custody of court. Lubanga was brought to the court in May of 2006, his trial began in January 2009.  The defense began presenting its case in January 2010.  The case was stopped in 2009 to consider the addition of charges at the request of victims, and for other reasons throughout the trial, failure to disclose evidence by the prosecution, transcription and translation errors, and other issues.  The case was submitted to the court after closing arguments in August 2011.

At one point, the trial chamber ordered Lubanga released, finding that he could not have a fair trial because of the failure of the prosecution to disclose evidence and comply with court orders.  That decision was overturned by the appeals chamber and the trial resumed.

As pointed out in the BBC report, Lubanga has been in the custody of the court for more than 6 years, and so would have something less than eight years to serve.   The prosecution and defense now have 30 days to appeal the verdict and the sentencing order.  It is not clear when the victim’s reparations process will begin, presumably after the resolution of any appeals.

Lubanga Found Guilty

By Jvhertum (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Schevenigen Prison in the Netherlands where ICC prisoners spend pretrial detention.


Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today announced a guilty verdict for Thomas Lubanga Dyillo in his war crimes trial in The Hague.  Lubanga was accused of recruiting and conscripting child soldiers as the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, (UPC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to the Lubanga Trial blog:

The ICC judges ruled that the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that Lubanga is guilty of the crimes charged. Judge Adrian Fulford, Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber, in delivering the verdict said that there was reasonable evidence to believe that Lubanga was involved in a recruitment drive for his UPC rebel group and that such drive included conscripting children and using them for combat purposes. The judges also found that Lubanga personally used children as his bodyguards.

Lubanga was the first accused brought into the custody of court. Lubanga was brought to the court in May of 2006, his trial began in January 2009.  The defense began presenting its case in January 2010.  The case was stopped in 2009 to consider the addition of charges at the request of victims, and for other reasons throughout the trial, failure to disclose evidence by the prosecution, transcription and translation errors, and other issues.  The case was submitted to the court after closing arguments in August 2011.

At one point, the trial chamber ordered Lubanga released, finding that he could not have a fair trial because of the failure of the prosecution to disclose evidence and comply with court orders.  That decision was overturned by the appeals chamber and the trial resumed.

The defense has a right to appeal the verdict to the appeals chamber.  Now that there is a verdict, the court may also begin the reparations phase and determine the appropriate amount and form of reparations to the victims recognized and allowed to participate in the case.

Katanga Witnesses Testify, then Seek Asylum

Three witnesses who testified for the defense in the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases against Germain Katanga and Matthieu Ngdolo Chui sought asylum in The Netherlands after their testimony.

According to the Katanga trial website,  the witnesses testified that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was responsible for the Bogoro attack, one of the allegations against the accused.  The case raises difficult questions for the ICC and its obligations to protect witnesses.   The three claim that by testifying against the government of the DRC they have put themselves at risk, and cannot safely return to the DRC.  They have asked the court to keep them in The Netherlands until Dutch authorities rule on the asylum requests.

The court has an obligation to protect witnesses, but cannot provide asylum.  Returning the witnesses to the DRC if they would be harmed would clearly not be in keeping with the court’s obligation to protect witnesses, but there is a limit to how long the court could hold them in custody, and it has no place to put them that is not custody.

The registry and its Victim and Witnesses Unit is trying to determine whether the safety of the witnesses can be adequately guaranteed with a return to the DRC.  The witnesses were in DRC custody when brought to The Hague.  The question to be resolved is whether or not returning them to DRC custody puts them at greater risk.

The case against Katanga and Chui is the second ICC case to go to trial.  Katanga and Chui are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Katanga is alleged to have been the commander of the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri, (FRPI) and Chui is alleged to have been the leader of the Nationalist Front of Integrationists (FNI) both fighting against the government of the DRC.

The indictment alleges that Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui allegedly jointly committed through other persons, within the meaning of article 25(3)(a) of the Statute:

War crimes:

  1. using children under the age of fifteen to take active part in the hostilities, under article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) of the Statute;
  2. directing an attack against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities under article 8(2)(b)(i) of the Statute;
  3. wilful killings under article 8(2)(a)(i) of the Statute;
  4. destruction of property under article 8(2)(b)(xiii) of the Statute;
  5. pillaging under article 8(2)(b)(xvi) of the Statute;
  6. sexual slavery under article 8(2)(b)(xxii) of the Statute.
  7. rape under article 8(2)(b)(xxii) of the Statute

Crimes against Humanity:

  1. murder under article 7(1)(a) of the Statute;
  2. rape under article 7(1)(g) of the Statute.
  3. sexual slavery under article 7(1)(g) of the Statute.

The trial began in November, 2009. The defense began presenting its case in April of 2011.