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ICC verdict a ‘milestone’ in fight against impunity: UN

The UN rights chief hailed the International Criminal Court’s first conviction Wednesday, of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, as a legal milestone that will “reverberate well beyond” his country.

Navi Pillay called the verdict, which found Lubanga guilty of abducting children and conscripting them as soldiers, “a great step forward for international justice and a major milestone in the fight against impunity”.

Lubanga, 51, was found guilty in The Hague on Wednesday of forcing children as young as 11 to fight and commit atrocities in a bloody war in a gold-rich region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“For many years, and on a daily basis, we have been documenting gross violations of human rights of the sort perpetrated by Lubanga against the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Pillay said.

The ICC verdict sent a strong signal on “grave breaches of international law that will reverberate well beyond the DRC”, the UN Human Rights Commissioner said in a statement.

“Two decades ago, international justice was an empty threat,” she said.

“Since then a great deal has been achieved, and the coming of age of the ICC is of immense importance in the struggle to bring justice and deter further crimes.”

Pillay stressed that the primary responsibility for prosecuting rights violations lies with nation states, but that the ICC has a vital role to play when states are unable or unwilling to ensure justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.