Wednesday, February 29, 2012

International Criminal Court to deliver verdict on Congolese warlord

AMSTERDAM, Feb 29 (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court said it will deliver its verdict on Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who is accused of conscripting, training and arming hundreds of child soldiers, on March 14, in the war crimes court's first trial.

Lubanga's alleged crimes took place during the Democratic Republic of Congo's 1998-2003 conflict. He was handed over to the court in 2006 and went on trial in 2009.

An ethnic Hema, Lubanga has denied charges he enlisted and conscripted children under 15, some as young as nine years old, to his Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) movement to kill members of the rival Lendu tribe.

Prosecutors have said Lubanga is guilty beyond "any possible doubt" and that his armed group recruited "hundreds of children to kill, pillage and rape."

More than 30,000 child soldiers were recruited during the Congo conflict, according to some estimates. One girl told the court she was conscripted at the age of 13 and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her commanders.
Lubanga has said he was a politician rather than a warlord, and had never played an active role in the UPC'S militia.

(Reporting by Sara Webb)

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