Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, seen here in 2009, convicted in March of using child soldiers in his rebel army, should get 30 years in jail, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said (AFP Photo/Michael Kooren)
(AFP)---Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, convicted of using child soldiers in his rebel army, should be sentenced to 30 years in jail, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said on Wednesday.
"The prosecution requests the chamber to impose a sentence of 30 years in prison," Luis Moreno-Ocampo told judges before the court in The Hague, adding he was asking for a "severe sentence".
Lubanga, 51, was convicted in March of war crimes for using child soldiers in a brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the ICC's first verdict since it started work a decade ago.
He was found guilty of abducting children as young as 11 and forcing them to fight and commit atrocities in 2002-3 in the DRC's northeastern gold-rich Ituri region. During the trial prosecutors told how young girls served as sex-slaves, while young boys were trained to fight.
Lubanga risks 30 years in jail or, if judges decide the crimes are exceptionally grave, life in prison.
But the former militia commander again protested his innocence at Wednesday's hearing, saying he has always been opposed to the use of child soldiers.
"I have always opposed such recruitment," Lubanga told the ICC's judges, who will now determine a sentence at a date yet to be set.
While "no one can say that no child under 15 has ever been found in the military," Lubanga stressed "I have never accepted or tolerated such enlistments taking place."
In a submission in May, Moreno-Ocampo asked judges to take into account the scale and brutality of Lubanga's crimes, the vulnerability of his victims and the impact on them.
He told the court on Wednesday: "The prosecution will request a sentence in the name of each child recruited, in the name of the Ituri region."
"Children are particularly vulnerable," Moreno-Ocampo said. "This crime is of the most serious concern for the international community."
"These children were told to kill and rape. That was the education he (Lubanga) gave these children," the prosecutor said, adding, "Mr Lubanga bears the greatest responsibility... Nobody in his militia could refuse to obey his orders."
ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told AFP "it will be for the judges to determine whether Lubanga's crimes are extremely serious", adding that sentence will be handed down at a date yet to be fixed.
A 37-year-old Congolese woman, testifying on behalf of the defence, earlier told the tribunal via a video link that Lubanga's "chief aim, through his actions, was to pacify" the volatile Ituri region.
Imprisoned in The Hague since 2006, Lubanga, the UPC's founder and commander of its military wing the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), has maintained he was innocent of the charges against him.
Up to 60,000 people have been killed in the mineral-rich area since 1999, humanitarian groups say.
Two militia leaders, Germain Katanga, 33, and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, 41, who fought against Lubanga, are on trial before the ICC on similar charges.
Former UPC chief Bosco Ntaganda, a Lubanga ally, has yet to be arrested to face the court on war crimes charges.
Kinshasa has always refused to give him up, saying Ntaganda had been integrated into the national army along with his CNDP rebels under a 2009 peace deal, and that his cooperation was needed to stabilise the war-ravaged east.
However, the tone changed when a group of several hundred National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) loyalists defected in April and began attacking army troops in Nord-Kivu.
Last month the government said it no longer excluded transferring Ntaganda to the ICC.
New York Times
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