International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Reconsidering Lubanga’s Sentence: Views from Ituri

The following commentary was written by Olivia Bueno of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), in consultation with Congolese activists. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of IRRI or of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

On August 21, 2015, the International Criminal Court (ICC) heard arguments about whether or not to release Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be convicted by the court. As required under Article 110 of the Rome Statute, the ICC will review Lubanga’s sentence now that two-thirds of it has been served. The prospect of Lubanga’s release has been met with reactions ranging from despair and frustration to satisfaction, depending on who you ask.

As this is the first hearing … Continue Reading

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Lubanga Pleads With ICC Judges for Early Release

Convicted Congolese political leader Thomas Lubanga has pleaded with International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to grant him early release, promising to promote reconciliation and announcing plans to do doctoral studies into the psycho-sociological determinants of conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Mr. Lubanga made the appeal before a panel of judges that will determine whether his 14-year prison sentence can be reduced. He states that throughout the 12 years he has been in detention, first in the DRC and then at the ICC, his thoughts have been with the people of the Ituri district, with whom he said he endured a painful history, beginning with a massacre in 1999.

“I offer my sincere apologies for all victims for the … Continue Reading

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Will ICC Judges Grant Lubanga Early Release?

On August 21, 2015, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will hear arguments about whether to grant Thomas Lubanga early release from imprisonment. In March 2012, Trial Chamber judges found Lubanga guilty of the enlistment, conscription, and use of children under the age of 15 for combat purposes during the conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was sentenced to a total of 14 years of imprisonment. Both his conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal in December 2014.

A three-judge panel of the Appeals Chamber will decide whether Lubanga must serve his full sentence or if he can return to DRC after completing two-thirds of his sentence. Lubanga, the former leader of the Union … Continue Reading

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Appeals Chamber Decision on Reparations in the Lubanga Case

Dear Readers,

The following commentary first ran in a Special Issue of Legal Eye on the ICC, a regular eLetter produced by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, an international women’s human rights organization that advocates for gender justice through the International Criminal Court (ICC) and works with women most affected by the conflict situations under investigation by the ICC. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative. To read the full version of the Legal Eye eLetter, click here.

On March 3, 2015, the Appeals Chamber,[i] Judge Anita Ušacka dissenting,[ii] issued its first Judgment on reparations in the Lubanga case (Appeals Chamber Reparations Judgment or Judgment).[iii] The Judgment follows … Continue Reading

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Voices from the Ground: Reactions to Final Lubanga Judgment

The below transcript is from a program on Radio Canal Revelation, a radio station based in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The program is part of the radio station’s Interactive Radio for Justice and Peace Project, which promotes discussion on critical issues around justice in DRC. Following the December 1, 2014 appeals judgment of Thomas Lubanga upholding his conviction and sentence, the program hosted a call-in show to get reactions from listeners about the judgment. This transcript has been edited to remove non-relevant information.


Presenter (Didyne Uweka):  Welcome dear listeners, you’re following us from around the world. Today, we are going to present a special program that is part of the Interactive Radio for Justice and Peace Project.

On December … Continue Reading

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Dissent in Lubanga Appeal Decision Highlights Fair Trial Concerns

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today issued its first appellate decision in the case against Thomas Lubanga, upholding his conviction and sentence for war crimes relating to child soldiers. However, a strong dissent was issued by Judge Anita Ušacka, who stated that she would have reversed the conviction and acquitted Mr. Lubanga, vacating his sentence.

The majority appellate decision relied upon the law regulating appeals to find that the trial chamber overall had not acted beyond the limits of its discretion. The appeals judges found that the trial chamber’s conviction and sentence were within the bounds of a reasonable arbiter of fact. The appeals judges also affirmed that the accused charged as a co-perpetrator need not “personally directly” commit the alleged … Continue Reading

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Lubanga's Defense Opening Statement – Witnesses Lied, Lubanga is Not Guilty

NOTE FROM EDITOR: Below is an unofficial transcript of the opening statement of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo’s defense team today, presented by his lead counsel, Catherine Mabille. It seems clear the defense is going to take two tracks in the coming months: (1) challenge the truthfulness and integrity of prosecution witnesses, arguing that many of them were not in fact child soldiers; and (2) argue that Mr. Lubanga was not part of a common plan to recruit children to be part of the armed militia wing of his political party (arguing that the militia was in fact controlled by others), but instead Mr. Lubanga did everything he could to try to demobilize child soldiers.

“First of all, the defense intend to prove to the chamber that many of … Continue Reading

As another trial restarts at the ICC……

As the defense case for Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is set to start this week, another trial focussed on the Democratic Republic of Congo will also pick up speed again at the International Criminal Court: the trial focussed on Germaine Katanga and Matthieu Ngudjolo. And their trial is being followed by a great site run by the Aegis Trust here: The Aegis Trust site makes readers feel like they are actually sitting in the courtroom watching the trial unfold before them. 

Just as background, here’s some basics on the Katanga and Ngudjolo trial:

On September 30, 2008, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I issued its decision on the confirmation of charges against Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. Both are from the Lendu ethnic group, and both … Continue Reading

Why Are Victims Testifying Now?

Horrific stories of murder, sexual slavery and beatings emerged in the courtroom this week as victim participants took the witness stand in the trial of Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, at the International Criminal Court.  A schoolmaster told of his suffering allegedly at the hands of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia who hit him with gun butts as he tried to prevent them from abducting his students. A former child soldier spoke of seeing his friends killed  “like flies” during battle. A third victim, also a former child soldier, is set to testify next week.  But these victims are not testifying for either the prosecution or the defense case, so why are they testifying now?

In short, the ICC … Continue Reading

Q&A With Luc Walleyn, Lawyer For Victims In Lubanga’s Trial

Luc Walleyn’s team has represented 22 of the 103 victims participating in the Thomas Lubanga trial since 2006. He spoke to the Lubanga Trial website’s Wairagala Wakabi about the importance of victims participating in ICC trials, the opportunity missed by not charging Lubanga with sexual crimes, and why the victims’ lawyers are not happy with the attitude of Lubanga’s defense team.


Wairagala Wakabi: The appeals court has decided that no new charges could be brought against Mr Lubanga. Do you see a missed opportunity in Lubanga not having been charged with sexual and inhumane treatment crimes?


Luc Walleyn: After the appeal decision there was a new discussion on the consequences of this appeal decision and on Friday (January 8, 2010), a final … Continue Reading