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ICC prosecutors seek 30-year sentence for former Congo militia leader

The office of prosecution of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] asked the court on Wednesday to sentence the convicted Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [case material] to 30 years of imprisonment. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] told the court [press release] in the sentencing hearing that the prosecution will request a sentence in the name of each child recruited and in the name of Ituri region. A 37-year-old Congolese woman, who had worked for Lubanga's Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) [Global Security backgrounder] testified for the defense that Lubanga had tried to reconcile the tension between the parties and bring peace in a region occupied by violence. The former military leader could face either a 30-year imprisonment or a life sentence, if the judge finds that the crimes committed are so grave to justify such a punishment. Lubanga was charged [JURIST report] with recruiting children as soldiers. 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.

The Chief Prosecutor had already announced that he would seek the maximum sentence for the Congolese military leader in March, a day after he was found guilty [JURIST reports] of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. Ocampo mentioned also that the sentence would be well beyond 30 years if the prosecution would seek one year of imprisonment per child recruited. The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [ICC information sheet] is a landmark case for the ICC because it led to the first verdict issued by the ICC and Lubanga was the first suspect to be 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.

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