NPWJ welcomes milestone of first ICC judgment in the Lubanga case and landmark decision for the protection of children

14 Mar, 2012 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome – New York, 14 March 2012

  • Read the press release in French

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today handed down its first judgment against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, founder and former commander in Chief of thePatriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) and founder of the Patriotic Congolese Union. He was found guilty of having committed the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting of children under the age of 15 years into the FPLC and using them to participate actively in hostilities for the period from September 2002 to August 2003.

Statement by Alison Smith, Legal Counsel of No Peace Without Justice:
“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) applaud the first judgement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a milestone in its young history and as a landmark decision for the recognition of children’s human rights, being the first time that the war crime of conscripting, enlisting or using of child soldiers to participate actively in hostilities comes to trial at the ICC.

“Today’s decision sends a deterrent and unequivocal message to all those who still conscript, recruit or use children in armed conflict, or who are thinking of doing so. We hope that this trial will contribute to building the political will of all States to ratify and implement the second optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will pave the way toward the raising of the maximum threshold age for the conscription, enlistment or use of children to 18.

“We share the concern expressed by the Trial Chamber on the investigative strategies, based on a failed idea that the ICC does not need a presence in the field and can conduct its work from The Hague. The limited nature of the charges against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, and in particular the fact that the indictment does not adequately represent the nature or the extent of the crimes committed by the armed groups under his command, with a special regard for gender-based violence, is a further result of the illusion that the court can do its work without an adequate presence in the field. As the Chamber noted correctly, this has resulted in effectively abdicating investigation responsibilities to others, resulting in a waste of time, resources and credibility, which would have been avoided had the court’s own investigators invested sufficient time in the field, including through sustained engagement with human rights defenders on the ground.

“We congratulate the Court for the central role it ensured to victims in the trial, in which 129 victims were granted participation. Through this trial the Court has set a precedent in relation to witness management and protection, with special attention paid to children testifying before the Court, which resulted in the development of new guarantees for witnesses and for the authenticity of depositions. Enhanced victims participation is also a relevant way for the Court to fulfil the greatest part of its role: delivering a sense of justice and accountability to victims of crimes it investigates and prosecutes. We also welcome the development by the Court of its jurisprudence on the right of the accused to a fair trail, which sets important precedents for future proceedings, and we look forward to the Court continuing to develop its work in this area.

“Finally, we strongly encourage the Court to continue and intensify its outreach efforts, including for any appeal, and its presence in situation countries, in order to allow victims and affected communities to follow and understand the judgement and the following trial, to let them understand that justice has been and is being done. Another crucial next step will be the procedure for granting reparations to victims who have filed applications to participate in the Lubanga trial, for which the Court urgently needs to set out criteria and principles, taking a particular care for equal and effective access for all, in order to end the long wait of victims without information or compensation.”

For further information, contact Alison Smith on or +218 918 097330 / +32-2-548-3912 or Nicola Giovannini on or +32-2-548-3915.