11 Jul 2012

Congo warlord jailed 14 years

5:36 am on 11 July 2012

A Congolese warlord has been jailed for 14 years for recruiting and using child soldiers in his rebel army in 2002 and 2003.

Thomas Lubanga was convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March this year - the first conviction since the court was set up 10 years ago, the BBC reports.

Lubanga, 51, had protested his innocence, saying he had not supported the use of child soldiers, but in a unanimous decision the judges said Lubanga was responsible.

He showed no emotion as the presiding judge read out the sentence on Tuesday.

Judge Adrian Fulford told the court in The Hague that, taking into account the time Lubanga has already spent in jail, he will effectively spend eight more years behind bars.

During the trial prosecutors told the court that young girls served as sex-slaves, while boys were trained to fight.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch says more than 60,000 people were killed in the conflict between Hema and Lendu ethnic groups in Ituri, in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In June, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he was asking for a "severe sentence" of 30 years. He said the prosecution was requesting a sentence "in the name of each child recruited, in the name of the Ituri region".

The conviction of Lubanga is linked to current unrest in Congo.

Rebel forces are advancing towards the main eastern city of Goma, headed by General Bosco Ntaganda who is wanted for war crimes by the ICC.