Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for using child soldiers in battle. Taking into account time already served, Lubanga will serve just 8 more years behind bars.
Lubanga, who was convicted back in March, becomes the first person sentenced for a crime by the International Criminal Court in the Hague since it was set up 10 years ago. The BBC reports Lubanga showed no emotion as he was sentenced. The Globe and Mailsays Judge Adrian Fulford said the sentence reflected the need to protect children in wartime, “The vulnerability of children means they need to be afforded particular protection.” CNN reports Lubanga's cooperation with the court during the trial was one of the mitigating factors in sentencing. The BBC's reporter at the court says Judge Adrian Fulford was critical of the prosecutor, accusing him of making errors, failing to submit evidence to back up his claims and allowing his staff to give misleading statements to the media and according to the Globe and Mail for not bringing charges or presenting evidence of sexual violence against Lubanga at the sentence hearing. The prosecutor had been asking for a jail term of 30 years. Each side has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
The 51 year old Lubanga was convicted of abducting and recruiting children as young as 10 to fight during the current unrest in the Congo, and CNN says former child soldiers testified that they were recruited by Lubanga to kill, rape and rob. The Globe and Mail quotes Franck Mulenda, who represented the 140 victims in the case, “It is very important. It consoles the victims.” The issue of reparations for the former child soldiers was not addressed by the court today but Mulenda says he's waiting for that “so they can get back their education and their place in society.”
Rights activists called the case a milestone in their efforts to prosecute those who are using child soldiers in conflicts around the world.