By JOE KIARIE
But despite its historic nature, the trial has nonetheless revived concerns over ICCâs frailties and limitations in administering comprehensive justice and subsequently changing dynamics of conflicts.
Among the issues that have attracted criticism is the courtâs apparent inability to effectively prosecute all forms of crimes that meet its threshold, as well as its powerlessness in arresting the indictees.
One conspicuous aspect of the Lubanga trial is that he was solely charged with forcibly conscripting and using child soldiers in war. This is despite the fact that rebels under his command have been accused of massive human rights violations, including ethnic massacres, murder, torture, rape, and mutilation.
The terrorism committed against civilians by forces loyal to the warlordâs Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) in Ituri Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003 is well documented.
As the commander-in-chief of UPCâs military wing, Lubanga was notorious for forcefully recruiting children into his army. His forces attacked Congolese towns and villages, razed homes with families inside, carried out ethnic massacre, mass rapes and other atrocious acts such as beheadings. It is estimated that over 60,000 people died during the five-year conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups.
But oddly, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo mostly restricted his investigation on the DRC conflict to the use of child soldiers in the war, the crime on which the arrest warrant against the warlord in 2006 was based.
While his trial began in January 2009, it was not until May 2009 that legal representatives of victims participating in the trial officially questioned the triviality of the charges against the rebel leader. They appealed to the court to reclassify the facts and add sexual slavery and inhuman and/or cruel treatment to the charges.
The Trial Chamber agreed in July 2009 that a re-characterisation could occur, although presiding judge Adrian Fulford dissented from the majority opinion. The warlord got a major reprieve when the Appeals Chamber subsequently overturned this ruling in December 2009.
While the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) terms Lubangaâs conviction as victory for the thousands of children used in Congoâs brutal wars, it says the narrow scope of charges brought by the prosecutor against the warlord does not reflect the extent of the suffering endured by victims of his forces.
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