THE HAGUE, Jun 13 – 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.
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.
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.
“The prosecution will request a sentence in the name of each child recruited, in the name of the Ituri region,” the outgoing prosecutor told the court on Wednesday.
“Children are particularly vulnerable,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “This crime is of the most serious concern for the international community.”
A 37-year-old Congolese woman, testifying on behalf of the defence, told the 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 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 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.