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Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court uphold conviction of Congolese warlord

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court on Monday upheld the conviction of a Congolese warlord who was sentenced to 14 years for recruiting and using child soldiers, bringing to an end the court's first trial.

Thomas Lubanga was convicted in March 2012 of recruiting and using child soldiers in 2002 and 2003, in a verdict hailed as a landmark in international justice and a warning not to use underage fighters that would resonate around the world.

Lubanga, 53, was the first suspect convicted by the international court, 10 years after its creation. He showed no emotion as the decision was read out.

Lubanga's sentence is considered to have started when he was taken into custody in The Hague in 2006. Judges will consider whether to release him early when he has served two-thirds of his time.

PHOTO: Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga  who was convicted in March 2012 of recruiting and using child soldiers in 2002 and 2003, waits for the judges to rule on his appeal at the International Criminal Court in The Hague Monday Dec. 1, 2014. Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court have upheld the conviction of a Lubanga who had been sentenced to 14 years for recruiting and using child soldiers, bringing to an end the court's first trial which was hailed as a landmark in international justice and a deterrent that would resonate around the world. (AP Photo/Michael Kooren, Pool)
Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga who was convicted in March 2012 of recruiting and using child soldiers in 2002 and 2003, waits for the judges to rule on his appeal at the International Criminal Court in The Hague Monday Dec. 1, 2014. Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court have upheld the conviction of a Lubanga who had been sentenced to 14 years for recruiting and using child soldiers, bringing to an end the court's first trial which was hailed as a landmark in international justice and a deterrent that would resonate around the world. (AP Photo/Michael Kooren, Pool)

Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said it wasn't clear where Lubanga will serve the remainder of his sentence.

Activists welcomed the appeals ruling.

"In upholding the Lubanga guilty verdict, the ICC Appeals chamber has brought some measure of justice to children dragged into war in the Democratic Republic of Congo," said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch.

Lubanga led the Union of Congolese Patriots political group and commanded its armed wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, which recruited children — sometimes by force, other times voluntarily — into its ranks to fight in a brutal ethnic conflict in the Ituri region of eastern Congo.

Presiding judge Erkki Kourula said the five-judge appeals panel rejected all of Lubanga's seven grounds of appeal in a majority decision.

Prosecutors had appealed against Lubanga's sentence, calling it inadequate, but the judges left his sentence unchanged.

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