Court of Appeals Upholds Conviction of Congolese Warlord Thomas Lubanga
Two years ago the International Criminal Court sentenced Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo to 14 years in prison for the international crime of recruiting and conscripting child soldiers.
As the ICC’s first criminal conviction, this was a huge victory for both the international justice system and the child soldiers recruited from the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WITNESS followed the proceedings with great anticipation as we played an important part in the run up to the conviction by using video to illustrate to the Court the experiences of children who were used in war.
While Lubanga challenged the ruling, it is with great satisfaction that we learned earlier this week that the ICC Appeals Chamber rejected his appeal and confirmed its verdict that he forcibly enlisted children under the age of 15. The court rejected all seven parts of Lubanga’s appeal and his sentence was maintained.
WITNESS strongly supports the Court’s confirmation of its 2012 verdict and believes that justice is being maintained for Lubanga’s victims.
“Videos were at the heart of the defense’s appeal,” explains WITNESS’ Bukeni Waruzi who led WITNESS’ efforts on the Lubanga prosecution and has worked on the issue of child soldiers for over a decade. “The defense argued that the video evidence provided during the trial could not really prove the age of the children, therefore requested that the videos be reassessed. The judges, in the Appeal Chamber, upheld the videos as evidence of the children’s age.”
While we are encouraged by the role video played in this ruling, and the precedent it sets for the use of video as evidence in future cases, there is still much work to be done.
Right now the use of video as evidence is not an effectively or widely utilized tool in the international criminal justice system. Because of this, WITNESS staff are developing a “Video as Evidence” resources as part of our larger Systems Change efforts. We hope to ensure that the media, policy, law and technology landscapes allow video to realize its full potential as a human rights tool. With the widespread use of mobile technology, people everywhere should be able to document abuse and ensure that their video leads to justice.
You can view WITNESS’ initial Video as Evidence resources in our new Digital Library. In the upcoming months we’ll be releasing guides for both lawyers and citizen witnesses on best practices for utilizing video for evidentiary purposes.
A video of the ICC Appeals Chamber confirmation of the Lubanga conviction can be viewed on YouTube.
The Coalition for the ICC adds background and context to the ruling here.
Image: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo at his first appearance before the ICC in March 2006. ICC/Hans Hordijk, via the United Nations.