NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative welcomes the first judgment of the International Criminal Court, which found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former Congolese militia leader, guilty of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in Eastern Congo.
In the judgment, the ICC judges highlighted significant short-comings in the presentation of evidence by the Office of the Prosecutor arising from the improper use of third parties, known as intermediaries, to gather evidence and witnesses for the case.
The judges agreed with defense complaints that intermediaries had in some cases manipulated and influenced some witnesses to lie. The evidence of these prosecution witnesses was therefore disregarded by the judges.
James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said:
"The judgment is an important step forward in the worldwide struggle against impunity for grave crimes. Its pointed criticism of the prosecution’s supervision of “intermediaries” further underscores the need for the Court to reform its investigative procedures, and establish clear rules for working with persons other than Court staff to identify and help gather evidence."
The ICC trial chamber judges ruled that the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that Lubanga was guilty of conscripting, enlisting and using children under the age of 15 years for combat purposes while he served as political head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) rebel group in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The court also found that Lubanga personally used children as his bodyguards.
Lubanga will now remain in custody until the judges schedule a separate sentencing hearing during which they will determine the length of jail-term that he would serve.
Lubanga surrendered to the ICC in March 2006, and his trial began in January 2009. The judges twice stopped the process due to concerns over inadequate disclosure of evidence by the prosecutor's office.