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ICC Appeals Ruling on Victims' Reparations in Lubanga Case

FILE - Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga is seen at his appeals hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, December 2014.

In a ruling closely watched by rights groups, appeals judges at the Hague-based International Criminal Court have set out the scope of reparations for victims of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who is serving a prison sentence for war crimes.

The appeals judges ruled on a series of measures on behalf of victims of ex-Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga. They said reparations programs should include measures to integrate former child soldiers under his command back into the community. And they said the original trial chamber had made a mistake in ruling that Lubanga should not be held liable for reparations because he was indigent.

But when it came to reparations for gender-based violence, the appeals judges offered a narrower ruling.

"The appeals chamber considers that sexual and gender and gender-based violence cannot be defined as a harm resulting from the crimes for which Mr. Lubanga was convicted," said the judge.

"The appeals chamber therefore finds that the trial chamber erred in holding that reparations award should be formulated and implemented to include victims of sexual and gender-based violence and amends the impugn decision."

Fifty-four-year-old Lubanga was sentenced in 2012 to 14 years in prison for war crimes -- specifically for using child soldiers in fighting in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri region in 2002 and 2003. In December, the ICC's appeals court upheld the ruling, closing the court's first case.

Both Lubanga and the victims' representative had also appealed the 2012 decision on victims reparations. Monday's ruling brings that appeal to a close.

Rights groups like the Paris-based FIDH, or International Federation for Human Rights, have been pushing for a broad interpretation of victims' reparations that would include things like campaigns to limit stigmatization of victims and educational programs.

FIDH's representative at the ICC, Carrie Comer, said the group was still studying Monday's ruling, but she welcomed some aspects of it.

"The chamber also reinforced that both direct and indirect victims of the crimes for which Mr. Lubanga was convicted are eligible for reparations, but obviously excluding victims of sexual and gender-based crimes is a setback," she said.

Comer said it underscored the importance of having an effective prosecution strategy on sexual and gender-based violence. Last year, the ICC's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced a new policy to attack sexual and gender-based violence.

On Friday, the ICC ruled on another Congolese case in appeals -- upholding the acquittal of ex-militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui.

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