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One decade, one ruling: Hague war crimes court to finds Congo warlord guilty

Evert-Jan Daniels / Pool via EPA

Former Congolese rebel commander Thomas Lubanga sits in a court room the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the Netherlands, on Wednesday.

Updated at 10:37 a.m. ET: THE HAGUE -- The Hague international war crimes court found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty in its first ruling on Wednesday after a decade of work.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, 51, was detained six years ago and faced charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over a 1998-2003 war, when tens of thousands were killed. He was accused of among other things of sending children into battle.


The trial lasted more than 2 1/2 years and was halted twice. Prosecutors and defence lawyers called dozens of witnesses. Among them were victims of crimes, technical experts and Lubanga's former colleagues.

Lubanga said during his trial he was a politician who had no power over the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (FPLC), the armed militia of the Union of Congolese Patriots which Lubanga headed and to which he is accused of conscripting children younger than 15 to fight.

Prosecutors took several years longer than planned to complete preparations for the Lubanga trial.

Lubanga could face up to life imprisonment, although sentence will not be passed immediately. An appeal can be filed within 30 days.

U.N. Human Rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday hailed the verdict as "a great step forward for international justice and a major milestone in the fight against impunity."

Lubanga's conviction could help lend momentum to other prominent cases, such as that against former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo is charged with individual responsibility on counts of crimes against humanity -- murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and other inhuman acts.

Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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