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.
By Toby Sterling (Associated Press)
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.
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 sceptically.
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 defence 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 defence began Wednesday with testimony from a woman who worked with Lubanga, describing him as kind to children, and a "man of peace."
"The evidence shows he was not a man of peace," Moreno-Ocampo remarked later.
Defence 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 defence.
He has been in custody for six years.