Photograph by Michael Kooren/AFP/Getty Images.
It's not a good time to be an African warlord accused of using child soldiers, to say the least.
The International Criminal Court handed down its first verdict on Wednesday, finding Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga guilty of recruiting boys and girls as young as 11 years old during the final years of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 1998-2003 war.
The verdict is the first handed out by the Netherlands-based international court since it was established a decade ago, Al Jazeera reports.
The 51-year-old had pleaded not guilty, insisting that he was merely the political head of the Union of Congolese Patriots and not the military leader of the group. He will be sentenced at a later date and faces life imprisonment. The court does not issue the death penalty.
Al Jazeera with the disturbing details:
Prosecutors said that Lubanga's role in the conflict was driven by a desire to maintain and expand his control over Ituri, one of the world's most lucrative gold-mining territories. They alleged that the [group] under Lubanga's control abducted children as young as 11 from their homes, schools and football fields. They were taken to military training camps, where they were beaten and drugged. Girls among them were used as sex slaves, prosecutors told the court.
Since it’s the first time an international tribunal has ruled on the conscription of child soldiers, the landmark case could also set a legal precedent for Joseph Kony, the fugitive Ugandan leader of Kony 2012 fame, if he is ever found and brought in front of the ICC.
The tribunal is the world’s only independent, permanent court tasked with prosecuting the world’s worst criminals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but has faced criticism by those who say it unfairly targets leaders in Africa, since all of its seven current investigations are based there. It also has gotten flack for being interminably slow in procedure: Lubanga was first brought into custody in 2006, and his trial, the first at the ICC, began back in 2009.
For more on this story, and the ICC, you can check out this article from the BBC.