ICC/DRC: No Peace Without Justice welcomes the opening of the trial against Thomas Lubanga as a landmark in the fight against impunity

26 Jan, 2009 | Press Releases

The International Criminal Court begins today its first ever trial with the case of The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.

Mr Lubanga, the alleged founder and leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC – Union of Congolese Patriots), is accused of committing war crimes consisting of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the FPLC, the military wing of the UPC, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri, from September 2002 to 13 August 2003. He was arrested and surrendered to the Court on 17 March 2006 following the issuance of an arrest warrant by the Pre-Trial Chamber I in February of the same year. He is the first person to face trial before the ICC for crimes allegedly committed during the armed conflict in Ituri, since the opening of the investigation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by the Prosecutor in June 2004.

Statement by Sergio Stanzani and Gianfranco Dell’Alba, President and Secretary General of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice welcomes the opening of the trial against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo as an important step towards ending impunity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and as a signal of growing international determination to end the use of child soldiers, whose number has increased alarmingly since 2002.

“NPWJ hopes that this trial will foster the process of global ratification of the Second Option Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which raises the minimum age below which the use or recruitment in the armed forces is prohibited to the age of eighteen. The current disconnect between customary international law, which prohibits the conscription, enlistment or use of children under the age of fifteen, and the definition of a child being anyone under the age of eighteen leaves a significant gap in the protection of children aged between 15 and 18, which should be remedied as soon as possible.

“The focus of these indictments on the recruitment and use of child soldiers makes it likely that some children will testify against Mr. Lubanga Dyilo. NPWJ strongly urges that all appropriate measures are employed for the protection of their safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy, as required by the Rome Statute. All children affected by this conflict, and particularly children who appear before the ICC, should also be provided with services for their long-term recovery and reintegration within society.

“NPWJ welcomes the specific strategies developed by the ICC to engage with the communities of the DRC, particularly during this critical stage, and urges that an strong focus be placed on children and the youth. NPWJ encourages the ICC Outreach to engage with the youth of the DRC by any means possible, including through networks with child agencies, educational institutions and youth groups.”
For further information, contact Alison Smith on asmith@npwj.org or +32-2-548-3912 or Nicola Giovannini on ngiovannini@npwj.org org +32-2-548-3913. Check also www.npwj.org.