Prosecutor to seek maximum sentence for Lubanga

2012-03-15 12:44

The Hague – The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said today he would seek “close to the maximum sentence” for Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, convicted of using child soldiers.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo also vowed to ratchet up pressure for the arrest of Lubanga’s co-accused, fugitive warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who according to rights groups is currently in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

“If we are going to ask one year per child we should go far beyond the maximum of 30 years provided by the Rome Statute,” Moreno-Ocampo said a day after Lubanga’s conviction.

“We will seek a sentence close to the maximum,” the prosecutor told reporters a press conference at the tribunal’s Hague-based headquarters.

The ICC yesterday found Lubanga guilty of using child soldiers during a brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was its first verdict since starting work almost a decade ago and was hailed yesterday by the UN and world powers such as the United States.

Lubanga, 51, was convicted, six years after his arrest, of abducting children as young as 11 and forcing them to fight and commit atrocities in a gold-rich region of the country.

The Congolese warlord – thought to be the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and chief commander of its military wing – was sent to The Hague in 2006 and put on trial in early 2009.

Lubanga, who has denied the charges against him, will be sentenced at a date yet to be determined.

He risks 30 years in jail or, if judges decide the crimes are exceptionally grave, life in prison.

The prosecutor would make his submission for sentencing on April 18, Moreno-Ocampo said.

Prosecutors, said Moreno-Ocampo, will now ask judges to add rape and murder charges on a sheet which already indicting Ntaganda for recruiting child soldiers to fight in his rebel army between 2002-03.

Ntaganda, a Lubanga ally, has yet to be arrested to face the court on war crimes charges. The ICC issued a warrant for Ntaganda’s arrest in August 2006 on war crimes charges for using children under the age of 15 to fight and commit atrocities.

He is currently serving as a general in the Congolese army based in the eastern city of Goma, according to rights group Human Rights Watch.

“After all the evidence (in the Lubanga case) we found there is enough evidence to present charges of rape and murder against Bosco Ntaganda,” Moreno-Ocampo said, adding “We are going to that.”

The Prosecutor’s Office was planning to meet President Kabila “shortly” to discuss the issue, Moreno-Ocampo said.

The meeting will be “to thank President Kabila for his commitment and strong support, but also to request the immediate arrest of Mr Bosco Ntaganda.”

“It is time to arrest him.”

Two militia leaders, Germain Katanga, 33, and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, 41, who fought against Lubanga, are facing trial before the ICC on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.

The ICC, the world’s only permanent tribunal to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity has issued four arrest warrants for crimes in the DR Congo and is investigating seven cases, all in Africa.

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