The International Criminal Court [official website] sentenced [judgment, PDF; press release] convicted Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [case materials] to 14 years in prison on Tuesday for his role in recruiting child soldiers. In summarizing the decision of the three-judge panel, Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford said that the "vulnerability of children mean that they need to be afforded particular protection that does not apply to the general population." The court noted that Lubanga cooperated with the court and authorities throughout the trial and indicated that this was considered during sentencing. Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito wrote a separate opinion [text, PDF] dissenting from this view, which she believes disregarded the suffering of Lubanga's victims. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had asked the court last month to hand down a 30-year sentence for the former militia leader. The Chief Prosecutor had announced that he would seek the maximum sentence for the Congolese military leader in March, a day after he was found guilty [JURIST reports] of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. Lubanga has maintained his innocence [JURIST report] throughout the trial.
The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [ICC information sheet] is a landmark case for the ICC because Lubanga was the first prisoner taken into custody [JURIST report] and delivered to the international criminal tribunal in The Hague. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] in July 2009 after presenting 22 weeks of testimony. Lubanga's trial began in January 2009 after being delayed for evidentiary reasons and was then halted soon afterward when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST reports] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. He was charged with recruiting child soldiers [JURIST report] in 2006. In March 2006, he was taken into ICC custody [JURIST report], becoming the first DRC war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC.