The defense for Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga opened today at the International Criminal Court, a year after the trial—the first one ever held in the international court—got its start. Lubanga faces war crime charges of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 for a militia implicated in massacres, torture, and rape during the Ituri conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the past year, the prosecution presented its case before the court, calling 28 witnesses including three experts and 25 witnesses under protective measures. Today, the U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict testifies before the court on the definition of conscription and enlistment of children, and what active participation in hostilities means.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Lubanga case has had an impact on changing the calculus of rebels and government soldiers with regard to child soldiers. Their field research shows that militia leaders are aware of Lubanga’s case and of the possibility for prosecution for the use of child soldiers.
As the monumental trial enters this next phase, we’ll try to bring you regular updates with the aim of raising awareness about the vital work the court is undertaking to bring justice to victims of some of the world’s most devastating conflicts.
Photo: Defendant Thomas Lubanga