ICC to Issue Its First Verdict on March 14
Mar 2, 2012 at 11:02 am
On February 29, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will issue its first judgment on March 14, 2012, in open court. The verdict will determine the fate of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese man accused of recruiting, training, and arming child soldiers for the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo) from September 2002-August 2003. The trial against Lubanga Dyilo began in 2009, and he is charged with war crimes. The prosecution alleges that Lubanga Dyilo is a warlord, but he claims he was simply a politician. Three other cases from the Congolese conflict are pending before the ICC, and one of the suspects remains at large today.
The ICC entered into force on July 1, 2002, and is located in the Hague in the Netherlands. It is an independent court with a "cooperative relationship" with the United Nations but it is not a part of the UN. The court was created by the Rome Statute on July 17, 1998 to prosecute war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity. The court is a "court of last resort" and must decline jurisdiction if the case is genuinely investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system.
The Congo ratified the Rome Statute in 2004, which gave the court jurisdiction over its citizens. The United States originally signed the treaty in 2000 but nullified the signature in 2002. Among other objections, some members of Congress have suggested that the treaty could violate the Constitution and thus would require a Constitutional amendment in order to ratify the treaty, in addition to the fear that it would be used as a politicized tool against the United States. Congress never ratified the treaty.
Out of 14 cases that have come before the ICC, only four have actually reached trial. To convict Lubanga Dyilo of alleged war crimes, the a majority of the 8 presiding ICC judges must find that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. All judicial deliberations are secret, but the final decision must be submitted in writing and include any minority opinion. The most severe penalties the court can impose are life imprisonment, fines, divestment of illegal proceeds, and restitution to victims.
During the 1998-2003 war, Congo forces recruited or conscripted an estimated 30,000 child soldiers. The Congolese conflict continues today.