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ICC Judges to Consider Reducing Lubanga’s Jail Term

Next month, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will conduct a review to determine whether to reduce the 14-year prison sentence handed down to Thomas Lubanga for using child soldiers in armed conflict.

The review is pursuant to Article 110(3) of the court’s Rome Statute, which provides that when a convicted person has served two thirds of their sentence, the court “shall review the sentence to determine whether it should be reduced.”

In March 2012, Trial Chamber I convicted Mr. Lubanga of recruiting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and actively using them in an armed conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during 2002 and 2003.

Judges sentenced the former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) to 14 years imprisonment, but he had to serve only eight years because, at the time of sentencing, he had already been in the court’s custody for about six years.

On July 16, 2015, the date on which judges Silvia Fernández (presiding), Howard Morrison, and Piotr Hofmańsk will conduct a hearing for the purpose of the review, Mr. Lubanga will have served two-thirds of his sentence.

Prior to the hearing, the defense, the prosecution, and the legal representatives of the victims will file written submissions on the review, as set out in Regulation 36 of the Regulations of the Court. The submissions are expected to address the following:

  1. The early and continuing willingness of Mr. Lubanga to cooperate with the court in its investigations and prosecutions;
  2. The voluntary assistance of Mr. Lubanga in enabling the enforcement of the judgments and orders of the court in other cases, and in particular providing assistance in locating assets subject to orders or fines, forfeiture, or reparation, which may be used for the benefit of victims; or
  3. Other factors, as provided in rule 223 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, establishing a clear and significant change of circumstances sufficient to justify the reduction of the sentence.

The factors specified in Rule 223 are the conduct of the sentenced person while in detention, which shows a genuine dissociation from his or her crime; the prospect of the resocialization and successful resettlement of the sentenced person; and whether the early release of the sentenced person would give rise to significant social instability.

Others factors include any significant action taken by the sentenced person for the benefit of the victims; the impact on the victims and their families as a result of the early release; and individual circumstances of the sentenced person, including a worsening state of physical or mental health or advanced age.

Mr. Lubanga, 54, is married with six children. In the sentencing decision, judges commended his conduct during trial. They noted that “he was respectful and cooperative throughout the proceedings, even during times of unwarranted pressure.”

Last December, ICC appeals judges upheld Mr. Lubanga’s conviction and sentence. The prosecution had asked judges to raise the sentence, terming the 14 years “manifestly disproportionate” to the crimes he was convicted of. Defense lawyers had asked the appeals judges to lower the sentence.


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