Almost 10 years to the day after its creation, the International Criminal Court handed out its first-ever prison sentence on Tuesday, giving a 14-year jail term to former Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga. The former militia leader was convicted earlier this year of using child soldiers to build a rebel army that's been accused of murder, rape, and ethnic massacres during the Second Congo War of 2001-2003.
The ICC was established by international treaty on July 1, 2002, but since that time has only opened seven official investigations, all of them based on conflicts in Africa. The court was created as permanent entity to try individuals for war crimes and genocide, but has been accused of being slow moving and ineffectual, mostly due to jurisdiction and procedural issues. There have been 28 indictments of individual people, but only five are currently in custody. The rest have died, had the charges dropped, were arrested by other authorities, or remain at large. (Joseph Kony and Muammar Qaddafi are among those who were charged by the ICC.)
The first and only trial to be completed so far was Lubanga's. He was arrested in 2006, leading to a three-year long trial that ended with his conviction in March. He continues to deny all the charges. His Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) was a rebel army fighting against various other militias and government forces and was at one time aligned with the Ugandan military. They were a major force in the conflict over the gold mining region of Ituri that killed more than 60,000 people between 1999 and 2003, and the UCP was accused of killing U.N. peacekeepers and destroying villages, as well as recruiting thousands of child soldiers to fill its ranks. Because of time already served, Lubanga will only be in prison for about eight years, though it has yet to be determined where he will actually serve his sentence.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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