Lubanga appeals ruling requestions ICC fairness

03 December 2014 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

This week the International Criminal Court (ICC), on appeal, upheld its first-ever verdict. However, the decision once again raises questions about the work of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) and the accused’s right to a fair trial.

Thomas Lubanga at his appeals verdict (Flickr/ICC-CPI)
Image caption: 
Thomas Lubanga at his appeals verdict (Flickr/ICC-CPI)

Judge Anita Usacka’s words were clear: “I would have reversed the conviction.” On Monday, the Latvian magistrate delivered a strong dissenting opinion after the appeals chamber confirmed Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga’s guilt and 14-year sentence. With that final judgment rendered, the ICC closed the Lubanga file. It was the very first verdict of the court in The Hague [IJT blog].

Lubanga had led the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled Ituri province. In 2012, he was convicted of war crimes, consisting of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers. Lubanga appealed, arguing that, among other things, the charges were insufficiently detailed and the trial was unfair since the prosecution did not investigate carefully enough.

In their appeals judgment, a majority of judges rejected those allegations. They also said they would not reassess the evidence and would have intervened only if the lower trial chamber assessment was unreasonable.

“The Lubanga disaster”

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.