The Hague, December 1, 2014 (FH) – The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday confirmed the sentence of 14 years in jail for former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga for conscripting children under 15 and using them to fight in the eastern Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003.

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“The Appeals Chamber confirms the sentencing decision and rejects the appeals,” said presiding judge Erkki Kouroula of Finland. Both Lubanga and the Prosecutor, who argued for a heavier sentence, had appealed.

The decision was by a majority of the five appeals judges, with Judge Anita Usacka of Latvia disagreeing on both the conviction and the sentence. Judge Sang-Hyun Song also partially dissented on technical grounds.

“I would have reversed the conviction on the grounds that the evidence was not sufficiently detailed and it was not established beyond reasonable doubt that the conscripted children were under 15,” Judge Usacka said.  She also disagreed with the sentencing.

Lubanga is the first person to be tried and convicted by the ICC.

During appeals hearings last May, the former militia leader said he found his conviction “incomprehensible”. He denied enrolling children into the armed wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which he headed.

In support of this claim, he called two witnesses who were heard by the Chamber before the final arguments of the two parties.

The two witnesses, both former security guards of Lubanga, said they were 18 and 19 respectively when they were recruited.

But the Prosecutor said their testimonies were unreliable and insufficient to undermine the conclusions of the trial court.

Lubanga, who was first imprisoned in Kinshasa, was transferred to the ICC in The Hague in March 2006.