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Minister welcomes prison sentence for Congolese warlord who recruited child soldiers

International Law, Irish Aid, Human rights, Press Releases, Africa, 2012

Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, T.D., today welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to sentence Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga to fourteen years in prison for forcing children to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thomas Lubanga was found guilty in March of abducting boys and girls under the age of 15 and enlisting them in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern region. Yesterday, the International Criminal Court sentenced him to fourteen years in prison.

Minister Costello said: 

“The people of the DRC have suffered appalling consequences as a result of ethnic conflicts within the country and in the wider region, which have claimed millions of lives. 

“There have been atrocities and the most serious violations of human rights over many years, including the forced enlistment, recruitment and use in hostilities of children who are younger than 15 years old.  Ireland has repeatedly condemned these atrocities, and supported the bringing to justice - including through the International Criminal Court - of those responsible for war crimes and human rights violations.

“I welcome the Court’s sentencing of Thomas Lubanga, which sends a strong message that the international community will not tolerate these appalling crimes against children.  Ireland has been a strong and committed supporter of the International Criminal Court since it was established in 2002.

“Through Irish Aid, we have also provided more than €18 million in assistance to communities affected by conflict and poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2010.

“Irish Aid has also supported efforts to prevent the use of child soldiers internationally, including through funding the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. Our funding to UNICEF  has supported their crucial work to secure the release of children from armed forces in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.”

In June, Minister Costello met former child soldiers during a visit to Sierra Leone and announced €50,000 to support counselling and vocational training opportunities. 

Minister Costello said:

“During the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, it is estimated that 10,000 children were forcibly recruited to fight. These children were often given drugs and forced to commit atrocities, while girls were systematically sexually abused.  Many of these children were rejected by their communities when the war ended.

“For these young people who have suffered terribly, the opportunity to access trauma counselling and to learn vocational skills is critical to their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”

 

 

For further information or to request an interview with Minister Costello, please contact Fionnuala Quinlan, Press Officer, Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 087-9099975.