The International Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced a Congolese warlord to 14 years in jail for using child soldiers — a punishment meant to bring justice for his victims, to signal a warning to others and to act as a potential landmark in the struggle to protect children entangled in wars.
Thomas Lubanga was found guilty in March of recruiting, kidnapping and abusing children in his Union of Congolese Patriots militia — sending them to kill and be killed during tribal fighting over land and resources in Congo's northeast Ituri region in 2002-2003.
Lubanga's was the first guilty judgment passed down in the court's decade-old existence; Tuesday's announcement was the first time the tribunal sentenced a convicted war criminal.
Otherwise the mustachioed Lubanga, who cried when he was put on a plane from Congo to The Hague in 2006, is a small player among Congo's many belligerents.
Lubanga's case this year has brought increasing pressure for the arrest of his much more infamous partner in crime, renegade Congolese army Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. Ntaganda had moved on from being a militia leader in Ituri to being the No. 2 leader in a tribal-based rebellion in 2006, when the ICC indicted both men for war crimes involving child soldiers.