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ICC prosecutor to seek maximum sentence for Congo military leader

International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said Thursday that he would seek the maximum sentence for recently convicted Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [ICC materials]. Lubanga was found guilty [JURIST report] Wednesday of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. Ocampo said that if the prosecution seeks one year per child the total will be well beyond the maximum 30 years [AFP report] provided for under article 77(1) of the Rome Statute, which also allows life sentences for particularly heinous crimes. UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay [official profile] hailed the verdict [press release] and said that the ICC plays a vital role in prosecuting human rights violations when states are unwilling or unable to do so. Lubanga's sentencing date has yet to be determined.

The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [ICC information sheet] is a landmark case for the ICC. Not only is the trial verdict the first issued by the court since its inception 10 years ago, but Lubanga was the first suspect taken into custody [JURIST report]. Lubanga was taken into ICC custody [JURIST report] in March 2006, becoming the first DRC war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC. Lubanga was charged with enlisting child soldiers in his militia, and his trial began in January 2009 after being delayed for evidentiary reasons and was then halted soon afterward when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST reports] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] in July 2009 after presenting 22 weeks of testimony. Lubanga has maintained his innocence [JURIST report] regarding the charges against him.

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