The Hague, July 10, 2012 (FH) – The 14-year prison term imposed Tuesday on former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga is the first ever sentence to be handed down by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The judges ordered that Lubanga's six years in detention in The Hague be deducted from his sentence, meaning that he has about eight years left to serve. However, they  rejected the Prosecutor's request to include his time in prison in Kinshasa.

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The Court pronounced a separate sentence for each crime committed: 12 years for conscripting children under 15 years of age, 13 years for enlisting them into his forces, and 14 years for using them to fight. Lubanga has to serve the highest sentence. 

On March 14, the ICC found Lubanga guilty of war crimes committed in Ituri, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003, when he was was president of the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC).  The judges found it was not Lubanga's intention to use children to fight but that he knew it would happen in the Ituriwar. They said there was not enough evidence to establish the number of children recruited into Lubanga's troops, but considered that “the involvement of children was widespread”.

The judges rejected all the Prosecutor's arguments of aggravating circumstances. In particular the prosecution had argued that the judges should take into consideration sexual violence against children, especially girls. In their sentencing decision, the judges said that it was “part of the harms suffered by the victims”, but that the Prosecutor had not brought enough evidence on crimes of sexual violence and Lubanga's possible responsibility in it.

Presiding judge Adrian Fulford highlighted the weaknesses of the prosecution in this case, which he  largely attributed to former Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. Fatou Bensouda, who succeeded Ocampo in June this year, was at the time Deputy Prosecutor in charge of the Prosecutions Division. The Chamber twice ordered Lubanga's trial to be suspended. Judge Fulford threatened to sanction the Prosecutor for refusal to obey court orders but did not do so in the end. The judges did, however, consider that Lubanga's “consistent cooperation with the Court” was a mitigating factor, “including under consistent unwarranted pressure from the prosecution”.