Lubanga 'exposed kids to harsh punishment'
The Hague – The International Criminal Court said on Wednesdays that evidence against Thomas Lubanga a Congolese militia boss found guilty of war crimes demonstrated that children endured harsh training regiments and were subjected to harsh punishments.
The ICC convicted the militia boss of war crimes for using children in his rebel army, in the tribunal's first ever verdict.
Lubanga, 51, was found guilty of enlisting child soldiers to fight for his militia in a gold-rich region during the bloody four-year war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which ended in 2003.
"The chamber reached its decision unanimously that the prosecution has proved Thomas Lubanga guilty of crimes of conscription and enlisting children under the age of 15 and used them to participate in hostilities," presiding Judge Adrian Fulford told the Hague-based court, set up in 2002.
"The evidence demonstrated that children endured harsh training regiments and were subjected to hard punishment," Fulford said.
"The evidence demonstrated that the children were deployed... and took part in the fighting."
First transferred to The Hague in 2006, the alleged founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and chief commander of its military wing, went on trial in January 2009. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors told the court that militia under Lubanga's control abducted and conscripted children as young as 11 from their homes, schools and football fields to serve as soldiers, and that young girls were used as sex slaves.
The ICC is the world's only permanent criminal tribunal to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.