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Congo warlord loses ICC appeal

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has rejected an appeal by the Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, against his conviction for using child soldiers.

Prosecutors said boys as young as 11 had been abducted to fight in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo that started in 1999.

Girls were used as sex slaves, the trial heard.

In 2012, Lubanga became the first person to be convicted by the ICC.

He had been the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), an ethnic Hema militia which was active in the war that started in the Ituri region in north-eastern DR Congo.

‘Deterrent’

During his trial, the court heard how the influential leader would go to people’s homes asking them to donate something for the war effort – cash, a cow, or a child to fight for his rebel army.

The ICC convicted him of recruiting children under the age of 15 and sending them to the battlefield. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

On Monday, the five-judge panel dismissed or rejected all seven parts of Lubanga’s appeal in a majority decision.

“The trial chamber’s assessment of the facts was reasonable,” said presiding judge Erkki Koroula.

The court also rejected Lubanga’s appeal against the length of his sentence.

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Thomas Lubanga

Thomas Lubanga in 2003

• Leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), an ethnic Hema militia

• Head of the UPC’s military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC)

• Accused of recruiting children under the age of 15 as soldiers

• Arrested in Kinshasa in March 2005

• Held by the ICC at The Hague since 2006

• Born in 1960, has a degree in psychology

Lubanga profile

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A BBC correspondent at the court, Anna Holligan, said the ICC hopes the guilty verdict will act as a deterrent to other military leaders who use children to fight their battles.

The eight years Lubanga has spent in jail will count towards his sentence. This means he could become eligible for early release as soon as next year, when he will have served two-thirds of the term.

The military wing of the UPC, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), was one of six militias which fought for control of gold-rich Ituri until 2003.

The conflict began as a local struggle for control of land and resources, and escalated as arms proliferated and members of the Ugandan army became involved.

The dispute became a battle between the Hema and Lendu communities, in which an estimated 50,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were made homeless.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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