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International Criminal Court awards landmark compensation to Congolese child soldiers

Tuesday 19th of December 2017
Juvenile Justice in the world

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled that former Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga must pay $10 million in reparations to the former child soldiers forced into his militia, the largest reparation of its kind to date. 

Lubanga was jailed for 14 years in 2012, after being convicted of kidnapping and forcibly conscripting children into his Union of Congolese Patriots that operated in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ICC ruled that each of Lubanga’s known 425 victims had suffered $8000 worth of harm, amounting to $3.4 million of reparations. An additional $6.6 million was then awarded in order to help those who are yet to come forward, as exact numbers of Lubanga’s victims remain unknown. The 425 currently identified were all aged under 15 when conscripted by Lubanga between 2002 and 2003, and many were sexually abused by adult militia members.

The $10 million reparation fund will be managed by the Trust Fund for Victims, an independent organisation which had already adopted a €1 million 3-year project to support Lubanga’s victims. The money will be used to fund assessments of the individual needs of each former child soldier, and the medical and psychological treatment necessary to aid them in their recovery. The fund will also provide educational and vocational training in order to support victims’ social reintegration, many having been shunned by their families due to their stigmatising involvement with Lubanga’s militia.

Trust Fund president Pieter de Baan emphasised the significance of the fund allocation, stating “It is really important that this is an acknowledgement that if harm is suffered on a mass scale by victims, you need to take it seriously, you need to recognise that and you need to put an amount to it.”

While this landmark ICC ruling is undoubtedly a significant step forward in achieving justice for former child soldiers, it remains unclear where the allocated money will come from. Lubanga was declared bankrupt by the ICC, and the Court itself only has only €5.5 million in reserves, its funds relying on member state donations.

Child Soldiers International has also expressed concern regarding the ongoing highly militarised status of the Ituri region, and the prevalent recruitment of child soldiers in the area. The organisation has called for the Congolese government and international bodies to increase their efforts to free these children, and to ensure that active warlord figures are similarly brought to justice.

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