BBC NEWS (UK), JEUNE AFRIQUE (France)
THE HAGUE - Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in jail on Tuesday by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for recruting and using child soldiers, some younger than 15, from 2002 to 2003. The sentence is the first to be handed out by the ICC since it started working a decade ago.
Fifty-one year-old Lubanga was convicted of war crimes in March for his role in the civil war in Ituri, a northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where ethnic conflict has killed an estimated 60,000 people since 1999. The BBC reports that Lubanga showed no emotion as he was sentenced.
Prosecution had requested a harsher sentence of 30 years in prison. ICC Judge Adrian Fulford praised the former militia leader for his cooperation and conduct during the trial, turning instead to criticize former prosecutor Luis Moreno Occampo, Jeune Afrique reports. Fulford said Occampo did not give evidence to support erroneous claims and allowed his staff to mislead the press, according to the BBC.
Lubanga was the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, an ethnic Hema milita, and of its military wing. The sentence was seen by human rights activists as a victory for international justice.
But Lubanga was arrested in Kinshasa in March 2005, and the years of prison he has served up until now will be deducted from his sentence, prompting some Twitter users to criticize the decision.
14 years for Lubanga. shame, shame, shame. and with the time he already spent in custody...shame shame shame shame... ilaria allegrozzi (@ilariaallegrozz) July 10, 2012
Others referenced the criticism that the ICC focuses too much on crimes in Africa and not in the rest of the world.
That the ICC has an Africa problem doesn't mean Lubanga doesn't deserve what he'll get tomorrow. The children he abused deserve justice. Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) July 9, 2012
Lubanga, who had pleaded not guilty, has 30 days to appeal the decision. Unrest continues in the DRC as rebel forces led by General Bosco Ntaganda - an ally of Lubanga who is also wanted for war crimes by the ICC - advance towards the country's main eastern city of Goma.