International Criminal Court (ICC) appeals judges have rejected a request by Thomas Lubanga to call a status conference to set the schedule for his appeals against conviction and the 14-year jail term handed him by trial judges.
The Congolese political leader, who was convicted last year over the use of child soldiers, had indicated in a July 22, 2013 filing that the appeal process was dragging.
On August 27, 2013, the judges ruled that at this stage, the appeals chamber did not consider it necessary to convene a status conference for the purpose of setting the schedule for the appeals. “Should it be deemed appropriate to hold an oral hearing in these proceedings, the parties and participants will be informed accordingly,” the ruling signed by Presiding Judge Erkki Kourula said.
Mr. Lubanga has been in custody of the ICC since March of 2006, when the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo handed him over. His trial opened on January 26, 2009, and he was last year found guilty of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting of children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities. The crimes took place during armed conflict in the Congo in 2002 and 2003.
At the time of his sentencing in July last year, he was expected to serve a little under eight years, taking into account the time he had already spent in custody.
Mr. Lubanga filed his appeal last December, challenging both the conviction and the sentence. The prosecution also lodged an appeal that month, asking judges to raise the sentence given to the former leader of the Union for Congolese Patriots (UPC).
Since then, judges have been receiving further submissions on the documents supporting the appeals. On August 27, 2013, the appeals judges authorized 30 victims to participate in the appeal proceedings and gave them up to October 11 to make submissions on the appeals. The defense and the prosecution are expected to respond to the victims’ submissions by October 21.
In granting the victims participating status, Judge Kourula stated that the trial chamber should have decided on their applications latest at the sentencing stage of the proceedings. As such, the 30 victims freshly authorized to participate in the proceedings had to be given the opportunity to file their observations. A total of 150 victims are participating in the appeal proceedings, 120 of them having also participated in the trial phase.
In the request for a status conference, defense lawyer Catherine Mabille argued that Article 67 of the Rome Statute, which is the treaty that established the court, gave the accused the right to be informed of the time in which a ruling on proceedings against him would be expected to be made. Furthermore, she said Articles 83 and Article 64 gave the Appeals Chamber the power to ensure that proceedings are conducted fairly, expeditiously, and in full respect for the rights of the accused.
Ms. Mabille reminded the judges that as of April 4, 2013, the parties and participants had filed all their comments on the appeals against the judgement and the sentence, as well as the decision laying down the principles and procedures for reparations. She said that at the time, only the fact that new players had expressed their intention to participate in the proceedings was delaying the final closure of the appeal debate.
The defense has asked to provide additional evidence at appeal, including calling at least two witnesses. Judges are yet to provide guidance on the defense and prosecution applications.
Other judges hearing the appeal are Sanji Mmasenono Monageng, Anita Usacka, Ekaterina Trendafilova, and Sang-Hyun Song.