International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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

What's The Buzz About The Trial's First Day Back?

Media buzz around the Lubanga trial spiked again today as the UN expert on Children in Armed Conflict, took to the stand as an expert witness to testify about the  plight of girl soldiers in particular when judges contemplate the definition of the crimes of conscripting, enlisting and using child soldier to participate actively in hostilities.

Here’s a brief round-up of the first batch of articles to emerge:

Radio Netherlands picked up the issue of the particular plight of the girl soldier, as discussed by Ms. Coomaraswamy in her testimony today, by focussing on the individual story of one girl soldier – identified by the psuedonym “Yolande” — in Ituri, DRC. She tells of being raped by a militia soldier and taken as his “wife”. Yolande also said the soldier taught … Continue Reading

And now, over to Thomas Lubanga…..

In the coming months, we will now get to hear Thomas Lubanga’s side of the story.

Between January and July last year, we heard horror stories from prosecution witnesses, often former child soldiers, who told of life as a child soldier in the UPC militia camps – the rapes by camp commanders; children abducted on their way to school and forced into the life of soldiers; the physical scars inflicted on them in battle, and the hidden psychological ones which emerged as they returned to their communities, only to be rejected by their families and friends. Prosecutors allege that Mr. Lubanga is responsible for the crime of enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers in his militia force. Mr. Lubanga has pleaded not … Continue Reading