The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said Thursday he would seek "close to the maximum sentence" for Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, convicted of using child soldiers.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo also vowed to ratchet up pressure for the arrest of Lubanga's co-accused, fugitive warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who according to rights groups is currently in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
"If we are going to ask one year per child we should go far beyond the maximum of 30 years provided by the Rome Statute," Moreno-Ocampo said a day after Lubanga's conviction.
"We will seek a sentence close to the maximum," the prosecutor told reporters at the tribunal's Hague-based headquarters.
In a landmark judgment Wednesday, the ICC found Lubanga guilty of using child soldiers during a brutal conflict in the eastern DRC in which rights groups said some 60,000 people lost their lives between 1999 and 2003.
It was the court's first verdict since starting work almost a decade ago and was hailed on Wednesday by the U.N. and world powers including the United States -- a non-signatory to the ICC's statute.
Lubanga, 51, was convicted, six years after his arrest, of abducting children as young as 11, forcing the boys to fight and the girls to serve as sex-slaves in a gold-rich region of the country.
The Congolese warlord -- thought to be the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and chief commander of its military wing -- was sent to The Hague in 2006 and put on trial in early 2009.
Lubanga, who denied the charges against him, will be sentenced at a date yet to be determined.
He risks 30 years in jail or, if judges decide the crimes are exceptionally grave, life in prison.
The prosecutor would make his submission for sentencing on April 18, Moreno-Ocampo said.
Prosecutors, said Moreno-Ocampo, would now also ask judges to add rape and murder charges on a sheet already indicting militia leader Ntaganda for recruiting child soldiers to fight in his rebel army between 2002-03.
Ntaganda, a Lubanga ally, has yet to be arrested to face the court on a warrant issued in August 2006 for war crimes charges for using children under the age of 15 to fight and commit atrocities.
He is currently serving as a general in the Congolese army in the eastern city of Goma, according to rights group Human Rights Watch.
The prosecutor's office was planning to meet DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila shortly to discuss the issue, Moreno-Ocampo said.
The meeting would be "to thank President Kabila for his commitment and strong support, but also to request the immediate arrest of Mr. Bosco Ntaganda.
"It is time to arrest him."
Two militia leaders, Germain Katanga, 33, and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, 41, who fought against Lubanga also face trial before the ICC on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.
HRW's international justice officer Geraldine Mattioli welcomed the statement by Moreno-Ocampo, saying they were "extremely pleased" about the decision to add rape and murder charges to the indictment against Ntaganda.
"This will give hope to the victims of these crimes in Ituri and who have yet to see justice," Mattioli said.
The ICC, the world's only permanent tribunal to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity has issued four arrest warrants for crimes in the DR Congo and is investigating seven cases, all in Africa.
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