Congo child soldiers awarded $10M compensation in landmark ruling

International war crimes judges have awarded $10 million US in compensation to child soldiers recruited by convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga — the largest reparation of it kind.

Thomas Lubanga was convicted in 2012 by International Criminal Court of committing war crimes

The International Criminal Court awarded $10 million US in compensation on Friday to child soldiers recruited by convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, seen here during his sentencing in 2012 for war crimes. (Jerry Lampen/ANP/Reuters)

International war crimes judges awarded $10 million US in compensation on Friday to child soldiers recruited by convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga — the largest reparation of it kind. 

The International Criminal Court said Lubanga was liable to pay the full amount to his young victims and their relatives, but added it recognized there was no way he would be able to afford it.

It said part of the payment would be made by a court trust fund for victims — and the fund should ask for contributions from the government of Congo. 

Lubanga was convicted in 2012 of committing war crimes for recruiting and using children in his Union of Congolese Patriots militia, sending them to kill and be killed during fighting in Congo's eastern Ituri region in 2002-2003.

Aid agencies estimated that 5.4 million people died as a result of war and ensuing hardship in Congo between 1998 and 2007 — more than in any other conflict since the Second World War.

The court in The Hague said the payment would fund psychological support and job training programmes for 427 victims identified during the proceedings. 

It acknowledged that many more children had been conscripted as soldiers. "Further evidence established the existence of hundreds or even thousands of additional victims affected by Mr. Lubanga's crimes," the court said in a statement. 

The judges awarded $8,000 per person, or $3.4 million in total, for the 427 victims recognized so far, with an additional $6.6 million for potential future awards. 

The court said it would monitor Lubanga's financial situation as he served out the remaining year of his sentence to see how much he might be able to contribute. 

In March, the ICC ordered another Congolese convict, former militia leader Germain Katanga, to pay $1 million in damages to victims.