ICCSN contributes to first International Criminal Court conviction of Congolese warlord
Some Central Michigan University students had reason to take pride in the International Criminal Court handing down its first conviction Wednesday.
Members of CMU’s chapter of the International Criminal Court Student Network reveled in the ICC’s successful trial and unanimous conviction of war criminal Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for enlisting and conscripting children into war.
The ICC, located in The Hague, Netherlands, is a tribunal started in 2002 to try individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
According to the unamninous decision, Lubanga, a Congolese warlord, drafted and used children under the age of 15 to actively participate in hostilities in The Democratic Republic of Congo in order to gain political and military control over the region.
Although CMU’s student chapter of the organization, the ICCSN, did not have an active role in prosecuting Lubanga, they still felt their hard work had been rewarded.
The organization, one of only five university chapters of the ICCSN in the world, has had an active role on campus in raising awareness about the ICC and the issues it addresses.
Last December, the ICCSN sent two members, including current president Mount Pleasant junior Erica Maylee to the United Nations for the 10th Session of the Assembly of States Parties, where they witnessed the election of Fatou Bensouda as the new Chief Prosecutor of the ICC.
In addition, they participate in a weekly radioshow at blogtalkradio.com at 7 p.m. Tuesday’s called Ethics Talk and recently sent two students to The Hague for a conference held by the ICC on Lubanga.
“We’re a small group, but we do a lot,” Maylee said.
CMU’s chapter of ICCSN is currently composed of only five students. With Maylee serving as president, the group also includes Plymouth junior Megan Blue, Saint Clair Shores senior Marissa Harden, Flushing junior Rebeccah Woodke and a former Central Michigan Life employee, Clinton senior Randi Shaffer.
Maylee said the decision to convict Lubanga was motivational for her.
“For me, the announcement is really moving and inspiring” Maylee said. “To actually accomplish a case is a crucial step for the ICC.”
Shaffer said the verdict will allow the ICC to be more effective in dealing with war criminals.
“One of the things I’m really stoked about — it’s gong to set a precedent,” Shaffer said. “The Lubanga case has ended after 10 years; it is our first verdict, and it sends a clear message.”
Harden said the decision will bring much-needed attention to their group.
“For me, I think it is something people can no longer ignore,” Harden said. “They know now we exist.”
Bringing awareness to the ICC has been one of the ICCSN’s main perogatives throughout the chapter’s two-year history. The United States is not currently a member state of the ICC, and very few people on and off campus know what the ICC is or what they accomplish.
“My parents don’t even know what it is,” Blue said.
The group plans will be holding events in April, which is Human Rights Month, to help raise awareness for the ICC.
Shaffer said the Kony 2012 movement, a movement by the group Invisible Children to bring attention to Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord who has direct parallels to Lubanga in the fact that he also drafts children under 15 for soldiers, was a clear example for the group.
“Lubanga was convicted, and no one knew, no one noticed, no one cared.” Shaffer said. “Yet if Kony gets arrested by the ICC, it is going to get attention. That is what we are trying to accomplish here on campus as well.”
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