March 15, 2012 / 12:48 PM / 8 years ago

Hague prosecutor seeks 30 years for Congo warlord

REFILE - CORRECTING SPELLING Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga (C) shakes hands with his lawyers in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Evert-Jan Daniels/Pool

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Prosecutors at The Hague war crimes court said on Thursday after securing their first ever conviction that Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo must get close to the maximum 30 years in jail for sending children into battle.

They also plan to demand that President Joseph Kabila hand over a serving army general, Bosco Ntaganda, who was promoted after being indicted with Lubanga by the International Criminal Court and who now faces new charges of mass rape and murder.

Lubanga, 51, was found guilty on Wednesday in the first verdict handed down by the ICC since it was set up 10 years ago.

Lead prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said it was hard to define an appropriate punishment for a man who had damaged the lives of so many boys and girls, pressed into service while aged under 15: “If we are going to ask for one year per child, we would go far beyond the maximum of 30 years established by the statute,” he. “We will seek a sentence close to the maximum.”

Lubanga recruited and commanded child soldiers in 2002 and 2003, during a five-year war in the Ituri region that left an estimated 60,000 people dead. He has 30 days to appeal.

The length of his sentence and cash reparations for victims will be discussed at a hearing on April 18, Moreno-Ocampo said.

He also announced a new drive against Ntaganda, whose continued presence in the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo has underlined the political limitations on the court and dismayed those who believe Lubanga was far from a lone criminal.

Announcing plans to bring new charges against Ntaganda, the prosecutor said his men stood accused of mass rape and murder.

“He cannot be a general in the DRC army. It’s time to arrest him,” Moreno-Ocampo said, adding that he will again ask Kabila to detain Ntaganda immediately and send him to The Hague.

Editing by Alastair Macdonald

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