Earlier today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) rendered its first verdict, ten years after the Court was established. Congolese Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (Lubanga) was unanimously judged guilty of conscripting, enlisting and using children under the age of fifteen in combat. He had been charged under articles 8(2)(e)(vii) and 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute with the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into an armed group and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Still to come is the sentence. The maximum sentence that Lubanga could be assigned is Life in Prison. Some have suggested, though, that the sentence could be as light as Time Served, which would mean the seven years he has spent in jail until this point. It will be interesting to see what sentence the ICC’s first guilty verdict receives.
Noteworthy about the judgment, beyond the fact that it is groundbreaking as the first verdict rendered by the first permanent international criminal court, is that it points to the negligence of the prosecution and the cost of that negligence to the Court.
Mistakes and wrongdoing committed by the prosecution throughout this trial have been concerning, tying up and suspending the process and impeding justice. And, naturally, these problems are a sore spot for the Court. However, this highlighting of these problems in the first judgment should be viewed in anything but a negative light. Rather, it is good to see that the Court can be self-critical and that it openly draws attention to room for improvement while it renders its groundbreaking first verdict.
Perhaps suspending judgment of the ICC, whether one might be inclined to judge it exceedingly harshly or positively, is in order – at least for the time being.