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ICC Upholds Lubanga War Crimes Conviction


Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga is seen at his appeals hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague Dec. 1, 2014.

Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga is seen at his appeals hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague Dec. 1, 2014.

The International Criminal Court has upheld the conviction of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, bringing its first case to a close.

Rights groups hailed the International Criminal Court's final judgment, which was unequivocal. The Hague tribunal rejected all seven grounds of appeal presented by the lawyers for Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga.

It also was historic. This is the first appeals verdict of the 12-year-old court - and draws the court's first and lengthiest case to a close.

Lubanga was dressed in a traditional blue African gown for the event. He looked sober as he listened to presiding judge Erkki Kourula read the verdict.

Now 53, he has been on trial since 2006.

Two years ago, he was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in jail on war crimes charges, for using child soldiers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 and 2003. His lawyers appealed his verdict on several grounds, including claims that video evidence of child soldiers in his army was not reliable. They also argued his sentence was too long.

While rejecting these arguments, the court also rejected the prosecution's demand for a much longer sentence of 30 years. Lubanga is expected to serve his sentence in one of the ICC member countries.

But the eight years he already has spent in detention will be counted toward his sentence. He could be eligible for early release by next year.

The ICC has been criticised for being slow in delivering judgment. Besides Lubanga's, the court has wrapped up only two other cases.

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