Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC)
In August 2002 the Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC - Union des Patriotes Congolais), a faction predominantly of Hema ethnicity and supported by Rwanda, drove forces of the RCD-Liberation Movement (RCD-ML), led by Mbusa Nyamwisi, from the provincial capital, Bunia, and killed members of the Lendu and Ngiti ethnic groups, seen as RCD-ML supporters.
In January 2003 Vital Kamerhe, the DRC's commissioner-general in charge of peace in the Great Lakes region, pointed to destabilizing actions by Uganda and Rwanda, including what he said was a "new rebellion" operating under the name of the Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC), fostered by Uganda and led by three Ugandan generals in Ituri province.
On 18 February 2003 MONUC announced the postponement of the signing ceremony of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Ituri for 19 February 2003 in Bunia, following Thomas Lubanga's objections. The leader of the Rwanda-backed Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC) created more obstacles in order to prevent some actors to the Ituri crisis from participating in the efforts for the cessation of hostilities and the pacification of the region.
On 15 March 2003 Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) recaptured the strategic airport of Munbgwallo in Ituri region of Eastern DRC from the Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC) rebels of Thomas Lubanga. The UPDF ousted Thomas Lubanga's Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC) rebel group from Ituri's main town, Bunia, on 06 March 2003.
On 12 May 2003 the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUC, said the troubled northeastern town of Bunia has been taken over by rebel forces of the Union of Patriotic Congolese, UPC. According to MONUC spokesman in Bunia, the rebel forces led by the Hema ethnic group, succeeded in overpowering rival Lendu militiamen, after a fierce two-hour battle.
As of June 2003 the Hema-centered Union of Patriotic Congolese militia still controled Bunia.
Thomas Lubanga was transferred to The Hague, where the International Criminal Court (ICC) is based, in March 2006 after his surrender. A warrant of arrest had been issued against him. In early 2006 ex-Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC) Chief of Staff Bosco Ntaganda left North Kivu and moved to the Tchei area.
On 29 February 2012 the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it would deliver its first ever verdict, issuing a judgment in the war crimes trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese man accused of participating in the recruitment of child soldiers. The verdict in the trial of Mr. Lubanga Dyilo was made in open court on 14 March. His trial started in January 2009 and the closing statements were presented by the parties and participants in August last year.
On 10 July 2012 Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Thomas Lubanga Dyilo to a total period of 14 years of imprisonment. The Chamber, composed of Judge Adrian Fulford, Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito and Judge René Blattmann, also ordered that the time from Mr Lubanga’s surrender to the ICC on 16 March 2006 until today should be deducted from this sentence. Mr Lubanga Dyilo was found guilty, on 14 March 2012, of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate in hostilities in the Ituri region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003.
The Presiding Judge, Adrian Fulford, delivered a summary of the Trial Chamber’s decision during an open hearing held today. He explained that the Chamber considered the gravity of the crimes in the circumstances of this case, with regard, inter alia, to the extent of the damage caused, and in particular “the harm caused to the victims and their families, the nature of the unlawful behaviour and the means employed to execute the crime; the degree of participation of the convicted person; the degree of intent; the circumstances of manner, time and location; and the age, education, social and economic condition of the convicted person”.
He highlighted that the crimes for which Mr Lubanga has been convicted, comprising the crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities, are undoubtedly very serious crimes that affect the international community as a whole. The Presiding Judge added that the “vulnerability of children mean that they need to be afforded particular protection that does not apply to the general population, as recognised in various international treaties”. Judge Fulford indicated that the Chamber has, however, reflected certain other factors involving Mr Lubanga, namely his notable cooperation with the Court and his respectful attitude throughout the proceedings.
Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito has written a separate and dissenting opinion on a particular issue. She disagrees with the Majority’s decision to the extent that, in her view, it disregards the damage caused to the victims and their families, particularly as a result of the harsh punishments and sexual violence suffered by the victims of these crimes.
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