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Congolese War Lord May Get 30-Year Sentence

Guilty of conscripting child soldiers

June 13, 2012

AMSTERDAM (AP) - The International Criminal Court prosecutor asked judges Wednesday to hand down a 30-year sentence to a Congolese warlord convicted of conscripting child soldiers - unless he is willing to show remorse.

Thomas Lubanga was convicted of the charge in the Netherlands-based court in March, sending a message to military leaders who use child soldiers that they will be brought to justice. Judges will set a sentencing date after the hearing concludes Thursday.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he could not find any factor that would lessen Lubanga's guilt. He "knew he was breaking the basic rules that the world has established to protect children," the prosecutor said.

Article Photos

In this Aug. 25 file photo, Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.
AP Photo

Moreno-Ocampo said, however, that he would be willing to lessen his sentence to 20 years if Lubanga could offer a "genuine apology" to the children and communities affected by his crimes.

Lubanga led the Union of Congolese Patriots, which recruited children under the age of 15 and sent them into battle in 2002-2003 in the Ituri region of Congo.

He showed little emotion throughout his trial, but reclined in his chair and closely listened to Moreno-Ocampo's every word, at times smiling skeptically. Lubanga is due to address the court later Wednesday.

Lubanga's conviction was the first at the court, located in a suburb of The Hague, in its 10-year history. Moreno-Ocampo's address in court Wednesday will almost certainly be his last, as his successor is due to be sworn in on Friday.

Earlier, presiding judge Adrian Fulford sharply dismissed one of the main reasons the defense put forward that Lubanga deserves a relatively light sentence - that it cannot be certain exactly how many child soldiers served in his forces.

Fulford said such arguments are "in fact an attempt to mount a collateral attack" on Lubanga's March 14 conviction itself.

The defense began Wednesday with testimony from a woman who worked with Lubanga, describing him kind to children, and as a "man of peace."

"The evidence shows he was not a man of peace," Moreno-Ocampo remarked later.

Defense lawyers also argued that Lubanga deserves a lighter sentence because the trial was twice delayed - and at one point almost dismissed - due to the prosecutor's failure to disclose in a timely manner documents that might have helped his defense.

He has been in custody for six years.



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