ICC considers sentence for DRC warlord

2012-06-13 16:12
Former Congolese militia commander Thomas Lubanga. (AFP)

Former Congolese militia commander Thomas Lubanga. (AFP)

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The Hague - The International Criminal Court, in a hearing on Wednesday on the sentence for Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, was told by a defence witness that his only aim was to pacify a war-torn region.

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 world war crimes court'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 between 2002-03 in the DRC's northeastern gold-rich Ituri region.

He risks 30 years in jail or, if judges decide the crimes are exceptionally grave, life in prison. The defence, prosecutors and lawyers for victims were before ICC judges on Wednesday to discuss his sentence.

One of two defence witnesses, a 37-year-old Congolese woman, told the Hague-based tribunal via a video link that Lubanga's "chief aim, through his actions, was to pacify" the volatile Ituri region.

"When there was an attack, he wanted to meet with community leaders to find a compromise... to find a strategy to give calm to a country that had a problem," the witness said, speaking from the eastern Congolese town of Bunia.

The woman said she had worked for Lubanga's Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) party at the time.

Imprisoned in The Hague since 2006, Lubanga, the UPC's founder and commander of its Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), has maintained he is innocent of the charges against him.

Up to 60 000 people have been killed in the mineral-rich area since 1999, humanitarian NGOs have said.

The court's outgoing chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in a submission in May 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 did not ask for a specific sentence but used two examples before the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone where perpetrators were sentenced to 50 and 35 years respectively for using child soldiers.

Read more on:    international criminal court  |  thomas lubanga  |  drc  |  central africa  |  war crimes
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