Imagine that Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) warlord Thomas
Lubanga visited your family's home one day. Chances are that if you had a young
daughter, she would be taken by force and used by Lubanga's rebel group as a
sex slave. If you had a young son, he would be conscripted to fight as a child
soldier with Lubanga.
For crimes such as these, the International
Criminal Court (ICC) handed out three prison sentences to Mr. Lubanga. However,
the sentences for each crime run concurrently and he receives credit for time
served. In just eight short years, Mr. Lubanga will be free as a middle-aged
man rather than spending the remainder of his life behind bars. Under the
circumstances, this human rights victory is a minor one because the punishment
is lenient given the seriousness of the offenses committed.
It is also noteworthy that Mr. Lubanga was not prosecuted for
other human rights violations, including torture, rape, and genocide allegedly
committed by the rebels. Perhaps the prosecution felt that there was insufficient
evidence to charge Mr. Lubanga for these crimes.
Sadly, the human rights violations continue even with Mr. Lubanga
incarcerated. Tens of thousands have been killed, while hundreds of thousands
have become refugees, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many are victims of
Mr. Lubanga's former UCP comrade-in-arms, Bosco Ntaganda, who leads the rebel
Called "The Terminator," Mr. Ntaganda is also wanted by the ICC
for human rights violations. It is time for international pressure to be
applied to cut off Rwanda's support of M23 and bring Mr. Ntaganda to justice.
One can only hope that such justice does not result in Mr. Ntaganda also
becoming a free man after a few years of incarceration. Neither the rule of law
nor human rights victims are served when atrocities are punished with light
sentences. Such sentencing is neither proportional to the crimes committed nor
an adequate deterrent to others contemplating human rights violations.
The crimes of these perpetrators scar their victims emotionally
and sometimes also physically for life, and are a life sentence imposed on the
victims for innocently being in the wrong place and the wrong time. The punishment for the perpetrators should at
a minimum match the sentences imposed upon the victims.
Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga sentenced to 14 years,
BBC News (July 10, 2012)
Sentences Congolese Warlord to 14 Years in Prison,
Voice of America (July 10, 2012)
Warlord Sentenced By Court In The Hague, NPR (July 10, 2012)
warlord jailed for 14 years over child soldiers,
UK Telegraph (July 10, 2012)
Congo rebels 'advance on Goma', BBC News (July 9, 2012)