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The Hague -
The International Criminal Court Tuesday for the first time ordered that victims receive reparations in the case of convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga.
Lubanga, 51, was jailed last month for 14 years by The Hague-based tribunal for using child soldiers in his rebel army during a bloody conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri province in 2002-03.
“This is the first time the court has ordered reparations for victims,” ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told AFP, adding that the order included a victims' trust fund set up by the ICC's founding treaty in 2002 to handle the process.
The Trust Fund for Victims will now consult victims “who suffered harm following Lubanga's crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using children under 15 years” to fight, the ICC said in a press release.
“Proposals for reparations, as advanced by the victims themselves are to be collected by the TFV and presented to a newly constituted trial chamber for approval,” the ICC said, without giving a time frame.
“We expect about 1,000 victims to be eligible for reparations,” TFV executive director Pieter de Baan told AFP.
Criteria to qualify for reparations will be “broader” than the criteria to select the 123 victims who took part in Lubanga's trial, De Baan added.
Set up under the ICC's founding Rome Statute, the TFV had around 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million dollars) available for reparations, De Baan said, adding the money was not only to help victims of Lubanga's crimes, but also those involved in possible future convictions by the ICC.
Lubanga himself has been declared indigent and “no assets or property referable to him have been identified to date,” the ICC said.
A former militia commander, Lubanga was sentenced by a three-judge bench on July 10 for his part in a war in the gold-rich Ituri region, where rights groups say some 60,000 civilians were killed between 1999 and 2006.
His conviction was also the ICC's first since the court started work in 2002.
Lubanga, who has been detained in The Hague since 2006, is the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), whose military wing is accused of killing hundreds of civilians.
The ICC, the world's only independent permanent tribunal to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, has issued four arrest warrants for crimes in the DR Congo since opening its doors in 2003.
More than 80,000 victims have benefitted from the TFV's victim assistance programme over the last four years in the DR Congo and its neighbour Uganda, where the ICC's prosecutor has launched an investigation into the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony. - Sapa-AFP