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Congo child soldiers awarded $10 million compensation in landmark ruling

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - International war crimes judges awarded $10 million in compensation on Friday to child soldiers recruited by convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga - the largest reparation of it kind.

FILE PHOTO: Former Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga awaits the judges' verdict in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, December 1, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

The International Criminal Court said Lubanga was liable to pay the full amount to his young victims and their relatives, but added it recognised there was no way he would be able to afford it.

So it said part of the payment would be made by a court Trust Fund for Victims - and said the fund should ask for contributions from the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lubanga was convicted in 2012 of committing war crimes during fighting in the northeastern, mineral-rich Ituri region from 2002-2003.

Aid agencies estimated that 5.4 million people died as a result of war and ensuing hardship in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2007 - more than in any other conflict since World War II.

The court in The Hague said the payment would fund psychological support and job training programmes for 427 victims identified during the proceedings.

It acknowledged that many more children had been conscripted as soldiers. “Further evidence established the existence of hundreds or even thousands of additional victims affected by Mr Lubanga’s crimes,” the court said in a statement.

The judges awarded $8,000 per person, or $3.4 million for the 427 victims recognised so far, with an additional $6.6 million for potential future awards.

The court said it would monitor Lubanga’s financial situation as he served out the remaining year of his sentence to see how much he might be able to contribute.

In March, the ICC ordered another Congolese convict, former militia leader Germain Katanga, to pay $1 million in damages to victims.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Andrew Heavens