By Susan Kendi
The first warlord ever tried and sentenced by the International Criminal Court has been set free from a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC).
The 59-year-old Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was dressed in a white ‘agbada’ outfit, an embroidered ‘aboki’ hat and carried a walking stick when he was released from Makala maximum prison on Sunday 16, 2020 after serving 14 years in prison. He spent 6 years in detention, 3 years in prison in The Hague and 5 years imprisonment in Kinshasa, Congo.
His release was celebrated by his wife and children, relatives and his die-hard supporters who were singing and dancing as they took pictures and recorded videos of him. The celebration was then followed by a mass that was held at the Notre Dame De Fatima parish in Kinshasa the capital city of the DRC.
Lubanga was the former head of theUnion of Congolese Patriots [UPC] militia and the commander-in-chief of its military wing, the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo [FPLC].
He was found guilty by the Trial Chamber I of the ICC for conscripting and using child soldiers to participate in hostilities. He was handed a sentence of 14 years in prison. This was the first verdict ever issued by an ICC Trial Chamber. The verdict and sentence were then confirmed by the Appeal Chamber on December 1, 2014.
The Judges further decided that the six years Lubanga had already served in detention in The Hague since March 2006 would be deducted from the sentence which would in turn expire on March 15, 2020.
On December 19, 2015, Thomas Lubanga was transferred to Makala prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo to serve his sentence.
An ICC arrest warrant was issued for Lubanga on February 10, 2006.He was arrested and transferred to The Hague on March 16, 2006.The charges were confirmed by Pre-Trial Chamber I on January 29, 2007.
The court of last resort confirmed that there was enough evidence to believe that Lubanga is responsible for the charges he was facing before the Court.
After Lubanga’s arrest and transfer to the ICC, his deputy Bosco Ntaganda took over as UPC commander.
Bosco Ntaganda has also been convicted and handed the longest sentence in the ICC history, 30 years imprisonment. This decision was made after the Court found him responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity including conscription of child soldiers under 15 years of age and committing sexual violence crimes against civilians and female members of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and its military wing Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).This is the first time that the ICC has sentenced a commander for rape and sexual slavery offences against members of his own troop.
Before his transfer to Makala prison in Congo, the Trial Chamber II of the Court found Lubanga responsible for reparations of USD 10 million. This part of the decision was approved by the ICC Appeals chamber.