Prosecutor to seek long sentence for Congo warlord

AP News
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Posted: Mar 15, 2012 7:39 AM
Prosecutor to seek long sentence for Congo warlord

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Thursday he will ask for a sentence "close to the maximum" for a Congolese warlord convicted of recruiting and using child soldiers.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo was speaking a day after the court delivered its landmark first judgment, finding Thomas Lubanga guilty of using child soldiers in the Ituri region of Congo in 2002-2003.

He called the conviction "a victory for humanity" and vowed to "seek a sentence close to the maximum" for Lubanga.

Under the court's founding document, the Rome Statute, the maximum sentence available to judges is 30 years or life imprisonment.

A hearing will be scheduled for later this year to determine Lubanga's sentence.

Moreno-Ocampo also said he plans to add charges of murder and rape to the indictment of one of Lubanga's former top commanders, Bosco Ntaganda, who is still in Congo and holds the rank of general in the country's army.

Moreno-Ocampo said he would travel to Congo to press President Joseph Kabila to hand over Ntaganda, who has been wanted by the court for nearly six years.

Ntaganda "should not be a general" in the Congo army, Moreno-Ocampo said. "It is time to arrest him."

Rights activists welcomed the decision to expand Ntaganda's indictment, which currently charges him with recruiting and using child soldiers.

"We are extremely pleased with the prosecutor's decision to add charges of murder and rape against Ntaganda: this will give hope to the victims of these crimes in Ituri and who have yet to see justice," said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch. "The prosecutor should also make sure to investigate Ntaganda's alleged crimes in the Kivu provinces."

Wednesday's guilty verdict for Lubanga was hailed as a milestone _ the first judgment at the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal 10 years after its establishment, but it also criticized prosecutors for relying too heavily on go-betweens instead of court staff to contact and deal with witnesses in the region.

Moreno-Ocampo said his office had already changed the way it deals with intermediaries and would act on the judges' criticism.

But he added, "we believe our investigation was very good and the judges confirmed that" by convicting Lubanga.