The First Judgment of the International Criminal Court (Prosecutor v. Lubanga): A Comprehensive Analysis of the Legal Issues

In: International Criminal Law Review
Author: Kai Ambos 1
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  • 1 Georg-August Universität Göttingen; Göttingen, Germany

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On 14 March 2012, Trial Chamber I (hereinafter ‘the Chamber’) of the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’ or ‘the Court’) delivered the long awaited first judgment of the Court (‘the judgment’). This comment focuses exclusively on the legal issues dealt with in the judgment but pretends to do this comprehensively. It critically analyses the following five subject matters with the respective legal issues: definition and participation of victims; presentation and evaluation of evidence; nature of the armed conflict; war crime of recruitment and use of children under fifteen years (Article 8(2)(e)(vii) ICC Statute); and, last but not least, co-perpetration as the relevant mode of responsibility, including the mental element (Articles 25, 30). While this article follows the order of the judgment for the reader’s convenience and to better represent the judgment’s argumentative sequence, the length and depth of the inquiry into each subject matter and the respective issues depend on their importance for the future case law of the Court and the persuasiveness of the Chamber’s own treatment of the issue. The article concludes with some general remarks on aspects of drafting, presentation and referencing.

  • 8)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 17.

  • 10)

    In more detail Bock, supra note 4, 158-64 with further references.

  • 14)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 16.

  • 17)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 15.

  • 19)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 484, 502.

  • 24)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 14 ix), 20; cf. also the analysis of the relevant case law by McGonigle Leyh, supra note 16, 326-9.

  • 25)

    Bock, supra note 4, 497-8.

  • 27)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 20.

  • 28)

    Bock, supra note 4, 502-3.

  • 29)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para 14 vi).

  • 30)

    Bock, supra note 4, 525.

  • 31)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para 14 vi).

  • 33)

    Bock, supra note 4, 512-3.

  • 34)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 14 vii).

  • 36)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 14 vii).

  • 39)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 14 v).

  • 41)

    Bock, supra note 4, 542-3, 533-4.

  • 42)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 14 xi), 18.

  • 45)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 95; see also para. 96 (quoting a decision of 12 April 2011: ‘For the documents that have been admitted into evidence without having been introduced during the examination of a witness (viz. the bar table documents) … the parties and participants are to identify the documents, or parts thereof, that are relied on, and to provide a sufficient explanation of relevance.’).

  • 58)

    Odio Benito Dissent, supra note 21, para. 43.

  • 60)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 1354.

  • 62)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 1234 (While the Chamber was ‘persuaded’ that ‘Lubanga was actively involved in the exercise of finding recruits’ it ‘cannot determine … whether he was directly and personally involved in recruitment relating to individual children …’).

  • 64)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 121.

  • 66)

    Ambos, supra note 44, at 548-9.

  • 67)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 122.

  • 68)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 178-477. The Chamber correctly uses insofar the term ‘non-disclosure’ instead of ‘incomplete disclosure’ (see Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Annex A Decision on intermediaries, ICC-01/04-01/06-2434-AnxA-Red2, 31 May 2010). The disclosure of the identity of a witness or an informant is a category in its own right, to be distinguished from the disclosure of exculpatory material (see Rule 81(4) RPE; cf. Karim A. A. Khan and Rodney Dixon, Archbold International Criminal Courts (Sweet & Maxwell, London, 3rd ed., 2009), § 7 mn. 338, 369, § 8 mn. 240). While withholding the identity of certain persons amounts to not disclosing it at all, exculpatory material can, as occurred in casu, be disclosed in part, withholding certain material obtained on the condition of confidentiality. Thus, in this case it is more appropriate to speak of ‘incomplete disclosure’ (see with regard to exculpatory material John A. Epp, Building on the Decade of Disclosure in Criminal Procedure (Cavendish, London, 2001), 78). On another note, it is puzzling that the problem of involvement of intermediaries occupies almost 300 (!) paragraphs, while non-disclosure pursuant to Article 54(3)(e) is analysed in two paragraphs, including the case history.

  • 71)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 115.

  • 73)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 116.

  • 86)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 120.

  • 90)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 121.

  • 92)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 119 (fn. omitted).

  • 94)

    Heinsch, supra note 50, 486, 488.

  • 100)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 523-67, especially 540, 542, 543, 551, 566-7.

  • 102)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 543 (‘number of simultaneous armed conflicts’).

  • 104)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 550 and passim.

  • 105)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 551.

  • 106)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 552.

  • 108)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 553, 561. For the same result Palomo Suárez, supra note 101, 129-130 (the Chamber refers to this study elsewhere, but apparently overlooked it here).

  • 109)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 563 (‘there is evidence of direct intervention on the part of Uganda’).

  • 111)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 542 referring to fn. 34 of the Elements of Crimes (ICC-ASP/1/3 (part II-B), retrievable at < www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/Legal+Texts+and+Tools/Official+Journal/Elements+of+Crimes.htm >, hereinafter ‘Elements’) to Art. 8 stipulating that the term ‘international armed conflict’ includes a ‘military occupation’; see also Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, para. 205. Crit. on the ‘occupation argument’ S. Weber, ‘International oder nicht-international? – Die Frage der Konfliktqualifikation in der Lubanga-Entscheidung des IStGH‘, (2009) 22 Humanitäres Völkerrecht-Informationsschriften (‘HuV-I’) 75, 78-82 (arguing that there is a clear legal distinction between an international armed conflict and an occupation and that the latter is not a special case of the former but is subject to the legal regime of the Geneva Conventions; fn. 34 of the Elements should, therefore, not be applied and Art. 8 (2)(b) – international armed conflict – is not per se applicable to an occupation).

  • 112)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 564 referring to paras. 543-4 where the Chamber refers to the UPC/FPLC’s conflicts with other groups.

  • 113)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 565.

  • 116)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 553.

  • 119)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 554; see also Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, paras. 221-5.

  • 121)

    Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, para. 220; conc. Ambos, supra note 70, 738. Agreeing with the Chamber however in this regard Dapo Akande, 'ICC delivers its first judgment: The Lubanga case and classification of conflicts in situations of occupation' (March 16, 2012), available at EJIL: Talk!:< www.ejiltalk.org/icc-delivers-its-first-judgment-the-lubanga-case/>.

  • 124)

    Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, paras. 275-85; crit. Ambos, supra note 70, 740-2 (arguing that the PTC’s broad interpretation conflicts with the nullum crimen principle, especially the rule against analogy). In favour of an (overly) broad interpretation of ‘national armed forces’ (unconcerned with the nullum crimen principle) ‘as encompassing any type of armed group or force’ Odio Benito Dissent, supra note 21, paras. 13-14.

  • 125)

    Odio Benito Dissent, supra note 21, (paras. 9-14) is not convincing in this regard. The fact that a particular legal issue has at one point in the proceedings been discussed does not make it a ‘live issue’ (para. 12) at trial and much less so, if the provision to which it refers to is no longer applicable before the competent Trial Chamber. I will return to Odio Benito’s too great demands on international criminal justice in general and an international criminal tribunal in particular infra note 251 with main text.

  • 129)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 610.

  • 130)

    Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, para. 248; Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 618, 759.

  • 131)

    Ambos, supra note 70, 739-40; on the enforced disappearance see Kai Ambos, Internationales Strafrecht (Beck, München, 3rd ed., 2011), § 7 mn. 217 with Fn. 1013 and 1014; Kai Ambos and María L. Böhm, ‘La desaparición forzada de personas como tipo penal autónomo’, in Kai Ambos (ed.), Desaparición forzada de personas. Análisis comparado e internacional (GTZ, Bogotá, 2009), 195, 240-1, 250 (updated version available at < www.unifr.ch/ddp1/derechopenal/?menu=novedades)>, last visited 21 March 2012.

  • 133)

    Cottier, supra note 126, 231 (‘the act [or omission] of not refusing voluntary enlistment’); Darryl Robinson, ‘War Crimes’, in Robert Cryer et al. (eds.), An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure (CUP, Cambridge, 2nd ed., 2010), 310; Palomo Suárez, supra note 101, 140 (stating that the incorporation of ‘enlisting’ clarifies that any recruitment of a child fulfills the offence, regardless any voluntariness); Smith, supra note 123, at 1148.

  • 136)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 618 (‘[…] the offences [sic!] of conscripting and enlisting are committed at the moment a child under the age of 15 is enrolled into or joins an armed force or group, with or without compulsion.’; see also para. 759 where the Chamber treats both conducts equally).

  • 137)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 617.

  • 139)

    Robinson, supra note 138, at 72; Law Reform Commission, Report on Defences in Criminal Law (2009), at 13; Robert Cryer, ‘Defences’, in Cryer et al., supra note 133, at 403; Carlos Gómez-Jara Díez and Luis E. Chiesa, ‘Spain’, in Kevin J. Heller and Markus D. Dubber (eds.), The Handbook of Comparative Criminal Law (Stanford Law Books, Stanford, 2011), 507.

  • 141)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 616 and 617, following Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, para. 248. In the same vein Schabas, supra note 126, 254 (consent as an invalid defence, because enlistment is a voluntary act).

  • 142)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 610-12.

  • 145)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 583-7 (Defence: ‘direct participation’ related to ‘acts of war’, excluding for example bodyguards).

  • 147)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 621-8 (at 624-6 essentially referring to the SCSL).

  • 149)

    Draft Statute, supra note 126, 21 with fn. 12 (‘It would not cover activities clearly unrelated to the hostilities such as food deliveries to an airbase of the use of domestic staff in an officer’s married accommodation.’); conc. Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, para. 262; Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 575 (Prosecution), 621, 623 (Chamber, quoting Preparatory Committee and PTC).

  • 152)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 627.

  • 155)

    Similarly Palomo Suárez, supra note 101, 121-2; Sabine v. Schorlemer, Kindersoldaten und bewaffneter Konflikt. Nukleus eines umfassenden Schutzregimes der Vereinten Nationen (Lang, Frankfurt a.M., 2009), 315.

  • 157)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 628 (fn. omitted).

  • 160)

    Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, paras. 317-48 (criminal responsibility, in particular co-perpetration) and paras. 349-67 (subjective requirements); for a discussion see Ambos, supra note 70, 744-8.

  • 162)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 976-1018 (see also paras. 918-33 where the Chamber presents the PTC’s view in a systematic fashion).

  • 163)

    Ambos, supra note 70, 744-8.

  • 166)

    Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, para. 344. See also Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana, Decision on the confirmation of charges, ICC-01/04-01/10-465, 16 Dec. 2011, para. 291 (with regard to Article 25(3)(d)); Prosecutor v. Muthaura, Kenyatta and Ali, Decision on the confirmation of charges, ICC-01/09-02/11, P.-T.Ch. II, 23 January 2012, para. 399 and Prosecutor v. Ruto, Kosgey and Sang, Decision on the confirmation of charges, ICC-01/09-01/11, P.-T.Ch. II, 23 January 2012, para. 301.

  • 167)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 984; also para. 987.

  • 173)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 986 (emphasis added).

  • 181)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, para. 7 (‘… often be indistinguishable in their application vis-à-vis a particular situation, and by creating a clear degree of crossover between the various modes of liability, Article 25(3) covers all eventualities. … not intended to be mutually exclusive.’).

  • 188)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 994 and Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, para. 16.

  • 190)

    For the same result Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 1003-5 and Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, paras. 12, 15. Contrary (‘personal and direct participation’) the Defence position (Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 949, 1002).

  • 191)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 1003-5. The PTC more precisely relied on the theory of the ‘functional control over the act’ (funktionelle Tatherrschaft), see Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, paras. 330-4, 342; Ambos, supra note 70, 745.

  • 192)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, paras. 10-12.

  • 197)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, paras. 10-12.

  • 202)

    Fulford dissent, supra note 161, para. 6.

  • 207)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, paras. 9, 11. I note in passing that Fulford’s account of the German system (at para. 11 with fn. 21) is mistaken insofar that only in the case of mere ‘aiding’ to the crime (‘Beihilfe’, § 27 Strafgesetzbuch; English translation by Michael Bohlander available at < www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_stgb/englisch_stgb.html#StGBengl_000P27 >, last visited 21 March 2012) a mitigation of punishment is provided for per the form of participation, i.e., the sentencing range is not generally, as suggested by Fulford, determined by the mode of participation. The reason is that German criminal law, as explained in the text, applies the differentiation already at the level of imputation for reasons of principle.

  • 212)

    Fulford dissent, supra note 161, para. 15.

  • 216)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, para. 8 and already supra note 205. Fulford, ibid., also has a point when he questions a substantial difference between subparagraphs (c) and (d) (see on this issue my forthcoming Article 25 commentary, mn. 25, in Triffterer’s new edition with regard to the new significance standard introduced by the Mbarushimana Confirmation Decision, supra note 166, para. 283), but this is beside the point with regard to the here relevant comparison between subparagraph (a) vis-à-vis (b) to (d).

  • 217)

    Ambos, supra note 164, mn. 14.

  • 221)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, para. 15.

  • 224)

    Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, para. 366.

  • 227)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 1008.

  • 229)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, para. 17 letter d. (‘Intent and knowledge as defined in Article 30 […]’).

  • 231)

    Ambos, supra note 170, 719-20.

  • 235)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 1011.

  • 236)

    Bemba Confirmation Decision, supra note 225, paras. 364-9.

  • 237)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 1011. I note in passing that I made this argument already in (1999) 10 CLF 1, at 21–2, i.e. it took quite a long time until the Court became aware of it (the Chamber quotes the useful 2010 study of the War Crimes Research Office of American University in fn. 2723 which however itself relies on other authors, see p. 70 with fn. 227).

  • 240)

    Judgment, supra note 6, para. 1012.

  • 242)

    Fulford Dissent, supra note 161, para. 15.

  • 245)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 1014-5.

  • 246)

    Elements, supra note 111.

  • 247)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 942-4.

  • 251)

    Odio Benito Dissent, supra note 21, paras. 6-8(6).

  • 252)

    Confirmation Decision, supra note 96, paras. 356-9.

  • 258)

    Judgment, supra note 6, paras. 523-42. The discussion is little systematic and profound, in particular with regard to the crucial issue of the impact of an occupation on the nature of the armed conflict and a possible internationalization by involvement of Uganda and Rwanda.

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