THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The International Criminal Court convicted a Congolese warlord yesterday of using child soldiers, a verdict hailed as a legal landmark in the fight against impunity for the world's most serious crimes.

Human rights advocates said the guilty verdicts against Thomas Lubanga, the first judgment in the court's 10-year history, should stand as a clear deterrent to armies around the world not to conscript children.

"In this age of global media, today's verdict will reach warlords and commanders across the world and serve as a strong deterrent," the UN's special representative for children and armed conflict, Radhika Cooma- raswamy, said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the verdict as "an important step forward" in moves to prosecute crimes against children in armed conflict, spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Lubanga will be sentenced after a hearing later this year. He faces a maximum of life imprisonment.

The judgment came as the court is under scrutiny for its inability to arrest key war crimes suspects and its impotence in the bloody conflict raging in Syria.

The court was catapulted into the limelight last week by the viral video Kony 2012, which highlighted how it still has not had Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony arrested nearly seven years after indicting him for crimes including using child soldiers, murder and torture.

The court can only open investigations in the 120 countries that have recognized its jurisdiction or at the request of the UN Security Council. Nations including the United States, China, Russia and Syria are not members. -- AP

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