CRIN Children and Armed Conflict: The International Criminal Court’s first-ever verdict

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14 March 2012, issue 160 view online | subscribe | submit information


The ICC’s first-ever verdict

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The International Criminal Court’s first-ever verdict

A Trial Chamber made up of three judges delivered the International Criminal Court's (ICC) first-ever verdict on Wednesday against Thomas Lubanga for the war crime of enlisting and conscripting children under 15 in the  Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

Lubanga was found guilty of recruiting children into the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC) amid armed conflict in the Ituri region of the DRC between 2002 and 2003.

He now faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The court cannot impose the death penalty.

In the coming weeks, the ICC will sentence Lubanga and hold a hearing on reparation for his victims. The judgment can be appealed within 30 days. Read more. 

Children as young as 11 were recruited from their homes and schools to take part in brutal ethnic fighting in 2002-03. They were taken to military training camps and beaten and drugged; girls were used as sex slaves.

Lubanga went on trial in January 2009. He had pleaded innocent to charges of war crimes. Read more.

During the trial, the ICC heard testimonies of former child soldiers and of other witnesses, all pointing to the grave crimes committed against children and the long standing suffering that they are enduring.

The recruitment and use of children in armed conflict by foreign and Congolese armed groups continue to this day in the north-east and east of the DRC. The Congolese national army has also used child soldiers.


Read a Q&A on the Lubanga Case.

Read CRIN’s editorial on Children and International Justice.

Go to CRIN’s page on the ICC.


Children massacred in Syria

In the Syrian city of Homs, at least 45 women and children were stabbed and burned to death, opposition activists said Monday.

The killings occurred in the Karm al Zaytoun neighborhood, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition network.

Children were stabbed to death in front of their mothers, and women and girls were sexually assaulted and then shot, the network said. Read more.

Also on Syria, Amnesty International issued today a report revealing that all the various security forces are routinely torturing and ill-treating detainees held in the context of the protests and unrest, using methods of cruelty mostly used for decades. 

The report is based on testimonies from former detainees describing their treatment in detention centres since the predominantly peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government began in March 2011. Among the victims are children aged under 18. Download the report.


South Sudan commits to making the national army child-free

This week, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan (SPLA) signed an action plan with the United Nations that renewed their commitment to release all children within their ranks.

The action plan also ensures that all militias currently being incorporated into the SPLA are child-free and that a transparent system is in place for disciplinary action against those in command who recruit children within the SPLA. Read more.

Read more about the UN Security Council and Children’s Rights.


Attacks on schools in Nigeria

Since the beginning of 2012, suspected militant Islamist group Boko Haram members have attacked, damaged, and, in a few cases, destroyed at least 12 schools in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, temporarily leaving several thousand children without access to education.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is a sin" in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, seeks to impose a very strict form of Sharia or Islamic law in northern Nigeria and to end corruption. Violence by Boko Haram can be traced to five days of clashes in 2009 between the group and members of the security forces in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, and Kano states that left more than 800 people dead, including at least 30 police officers. Read More.


The Lord’s Resistance Army

In response to the video "Kony 2012" which received over 60 million views on the internet between 7-9 March 2012, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict prepared a factsheet to look deeper into the complexities of the Lord's Resistance Army and the impact on the lives of children:


The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began fighting the government of Uganda in the mid-1980s partly as a response to the marginalisation of people in the north. Joseph Kony is the founder and leader of the LRA.

The LRA swiftly degenerated into a brutal and merciless armed group, able to replenish its ranks only by abducting, terrorising and brainwashing children to fight. Its forces, thought to number 150-300 fighters plus hundreds of captive civilians, left Uganda in 2005 and now operate in Congo, South Sudan and the CAR.

Governments in the region have shown neither the ability nor the resolve to protect civilians from LRA abuses. United Nations peacekeepers are too few in numbers to safeguard civilians much beyond their bases. Read more.




“This conviction is an important step by the ICC in obtaining justice for the war crime of recruiting children and using them in hostilities. However, in the DRC and elsewhere, too many people are still evading accountability for their actions, denying justice to their victims and perpetuating the use of child soldiers.”

Richard Clarke, director of Child Soldiers International.

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