In the Ituri district of war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, community members watch the opening of the International Criminal Court’s first trial—that of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo—in January 2009.
© 2009 Marcus Bleasdale/VIIThe International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first-ever verdict on March 14, 2012 in the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, leader of the rebel group Congolese Patriotic Union, who was found guilty of using child soldiers who were younger than 15. His troops, claiming to act on behalf of the ethnic Hema community in Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been implicated in pillaging, torture, rape, and ethnic massacres.

This first judgment by the ICC signals the court’s movement into a more fully operational phase.  The Congolese authorities transferred Lubanga to the ICC in 2006. His trial began in 2009. Human Rights Watch has closely followed the Lubanga trial, and has created a related Q&A document that addresses not only key lessons from the Lubanga proceedings, but also what the verdict means for Lubanga's co-accused, General Bosco Ntaganda, and what more is needed to stem the impunity for human rights crimes in Congo.

Key Documents:

The ICC announces first arrest warrant issued in its investigation in the DRC

This first ICC trial makes it clear that using of child soldiers is a war crime

Q&A on Thomas Lubanga