By Professor Linda Keller
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first verdict on March 14, 2012 in the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (Lubanga). After a tumultuous and long course of proceedings, the Trial Chamber found Lubanga guilty of enlisting, conscripting and using children under 15 years of age in a non-international armed conflict. Lubanga was commander in chief of a militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the relevant time.
"This is a historic moment for the ICC,” said Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Linda Keller from The Hague, where she is a Visiting Professional with the ICC. “With a verdict in its first case, the ICC has come of age," Professor Keller said.
The verdict was announced to a packed gallery. "No, I did not see Angelina Jolie in person; I just saw the video like everyone else," Professor Keller said. "In fact, I watched it streaming live along with representatives of the major international and hybrid criminal tribunals at Professor David Scheffer’s annual Atrocity Crimes conference." Professor Scheffer was a recent guest-lecturer at TJSL.
Several noteworthy parts of the decision include the Chamber's re-characterization of the conflict as non-international; its refusal to consider the sexual abuse of girl child soldiers because the Prosecutor had not initially alleged sexual crimes; its relatively broad understanding of "use" of child soldiers in hostilities; and its chastisement of the Prosecutor for its negligent supervision of intermediaries, whose suspect behavior led the court to conclude that the evidence of several alleged former child soldiers was not sufficiently reliable.
The Chamber will next consider reparations for victims as well as the appropriate sentence for Lubanga. The verdict is subject to appeal.
Angelina Jolie was in the gallery for the veridct. Jolie serves as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and has been active in the campaign to end the use of child soldiers.