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Judges Decline to Reduce Lubanga’s ICC Term

Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have declined a request to reduce the sentence of Thomas Lubanga, the Congolese militia leader sentenced to a 14-year prison term in 2013. Last month, the court conducted a hearing to review his sentence, including a possible early release.

Judges Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi (presiding), Howard Morrison, and Piotr Hofmański today unanimously decided that it is not appropriate to reduce Lubanga’s sentence at the moment. The next review of Lubanga’s sentence will be in two years.

Although the judges found that there was a prospect for Lubanga’s resocialization and successful resettlement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), they nevertheless concluded that a reduction of his sentence could not be justified in the absence of any other factors in favor of reduction.

Under article 110 of the court’s Rome Statute, once a convicted person has served two-thirds of his sentence, the court must review the sentence to determine whether the sentence should be reduced. In July 2015, Lubanga completed two- thirds of the 14-year prison sentence handed to him over the recruitment, enlistment, and use of children under 15 years-old in armed conflict. The crimes were committed in 2002 and 2003 while he led the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and its armed militia, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).

According to Rule 223 of the court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, one of the factors judges are to consider in reviewing the sentence is “the conduct of the sentenced person while in detention, which shows a genuine dissociation from his or her crime.” Judges also assess the prospects for the resocialization and successful resettlement of the sentenced person.

At the review hearing, Lubanga promised to promote reconciliation and announced plans to do doctoral studies into the psycho-sociological determinants of conflicts in the DRC. He said his actions as the head of the UPC/ FPLC were aimed at lessening the “suffering of the community.”

However, the prosecution and legal representatives of victims opposed Lubanga’s release, faulting him for lack of cooperation with the court and for maintaining a negative attitude towards victims. The prosecution also claimed he was interfering with witnesses in the trial of Bosco Ntaganda, who served as the FPLC’s deputy chief of staff.

In their ruling, appeals judges determined that there was no indication that Lubanga’s conduct while in detention showed a genuine dissociation from his crimes. They also ruled that there was no indication of any significant action taken by Lubanga for the benefit of victims.

They said neither Lubanga nor other parties to the trial presented any information that could potentially establish the presence of any significant action by Lubanga for the benefit of victims. “Indeed, the [Appeals] Panel observes that Mr. Lubanga has not responded to the victims’ suggestion regarding his involvement in, inter alia, the reparation process or a demonstration of regret, which could be acts considered to be of relevance to this factor,” stated the judges.

Appeals judges stated that good conduct while in detention generally or in relating with other detainees and the Detention Center staff was not sufficient to establish the necessary connection between this conduct and dissociation from the crimes for which Lubanga was convicted.

Article 110(5) of the Rome Statute provides that, should the court determine in its initial review that it is not appropriate to reduce the accused person’s sentence, another review shall be conducted at a later time. Lubanga’s next review will hence be held in September 2017.


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