International war crimes judges have awarded $US10 million ($13 million) in compensation to child soldiers recruited by convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga in 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 recognised there was no way he would be able to afford it.
So it said part of the payment would be made by a court Trust Fund for Victims — and said the fund should ask for contributions from the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lubanga was convicted in 2012 of committing war crimes during fighting in the north-eastern, mineral-rich Ituri region from 2002-2003.
Aid agencies estimated that 5.4 million people died as a result of war and ensuing hardship in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2007 — more than in any other conflict since World War II.
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 $US8,000 ($10,428) per person, or $US3.4 million ($4.4 million) for the 427 victims recognised so far, with an additional $US6.6 million ($8.6 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 $US1 million ($1.3 million) in damages to victims.