LONDON, 1 December 2014 – Today’s decision by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to uphold the conviction and sentence of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo continues to signal that the recruitment of children and their use in hostilities around the world will not go unpunished, even when national authorities fail to take action.

Mr Lubanga – leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (Union des patriotes congolais, UPC) and commander of its military wing, the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo, FPLC) – was convicted on 14 March 2012 by Trial Chamber I of the ICC after having been found guilty of the crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the FPLC, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in 2002-2003.

However, notwithstanding the complexity of international criminal prosecutions, the ICC’s first verdict has today been confirmed on appeal more than a decade after the offences occurred. Child Soldiers International therefore urges the international community to provide the ICC with the resources it needs to promptly and effectively investigate and prosecute allegations of child recruitment and use in hostilities.

In addition, Child Soldiers International stresses that although this conviction is an important step in the global fight to end child recruitment and use, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and elsewhere, too many perpetrators are still evading accountability. Such impunity not only denies victims justice and reparations, but it also produces an environment conducive to the continuing perpetration of these crimes.

Background information

On 14 March 2012 Trial Chamber I of the ICC found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities during the armed conflict in the DRC. On 10 July 2012, Trial Chamber I sentenced Mr Lubanga to 14 years of imprisonment.

The Chamber’s decisions were appealed by the defence as well as the prosecution. On 3 October 2012, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo appealed against both his conviction and sentence, asking for an acquittal and annulment, or, alternatively, a reduction of the prison sentence. The Office of the Prosecutor also appealed, seeking an increase in the 14-year sentence.

For more information on child soldiers in the DRC see:

Child Soldiers International and Jesuit Refugee Service, UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY: Time to take strong measures to protect children from armed conflict in the DRC, 20 November 2014

UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, Conclusions on children and armed conflict in the DRC (S/AC.51/2014/3), 18 September 2014

Child Soldiers International, Briefing on the recruitment and use of children in the DRC to the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, 31 July 2014

Child Soldiers International, Application by Child Soldiers International for leave to submit observations to Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, 8 March 2013

Child Soldiers International, ICC Lubanga conviction - A positive step to end impunity for recruitment of children, 14 March 2014

Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: DRC (CRC/C/OPAC/COD/CO/1), 7 March 2012

Child Soldiers International, DRC: OPAC Shadow Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 13 April 2011

Photo © Espen Rasmussen/Panos Pictures