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Angelina praises Congo child soldier trial

Actress Angelina Jolie joined dozens watching from the public gallery, as International Criminal Court prosecutors urged judges to convict a Congolese warlord of recruiting hundreds of child soldiers.

Lawyers yesterday started wrapping up the international criminal court's landmark first trial with an emotional plea to judges to deliver justice to the world.

Benjamin Ferencz rounded off the prosecution's case against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who is charged with recruiting child soldiers and sending them to kill and be killed in his country's brutal civil war.

“Seizing and training young people to hate and kill undermines the legal and moral firmament of human society,” the 91-year-old expert who was a US prosecutor at the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of Nazi commanders, told the three-judge panel.

“Let the voice and the verdict of this esteemed global court now speak for the awakened conscience of the world.”

Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said she was honoured to watch Mr Ferencz in action and witness the end of the trial.

“It is quite striking to have a prosecutor from Nuremburg here today,” she said.

“You see his clarity, his wisdom, his strength and his compassion for this situation, which he has witnessed over the years, and now he's here to plead on behalf of these children in particular,” she told Associated Press.

The star said the end of the trial, which started in 2009, was “an extraordinary moment for international justice, but more than that, for children of the world.”

Earlier Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges that evidence given in the trial, which began in January,  gave a voice to the children whom Lubanga had "transformed into killers; those girls that Mr Lubanga offered to his commanders as sexual slaves".

She said Lubanga's Union of Congolese Patriots political party trained hundreds of children in 20 camps scattered across the Ituri region of eastern Congo in 2002-2003.

"They were used to fight in conflicts. They were used to kill, rape and pillage," she said

Lubanga's defence lawyers are expected to tell judges the prosecution evidence was flawed by false witness testimony and Lubanga, in fact, tried to liberate child soldiers, not recruit them.

The trial is a huge step forward in international law. It is the first international case to focus solely on child soldiers and was the opening trial at the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The court has since put out indictments in high profile clashes such as Darfur, Sudan and the Gaddafi regime's failed but brutal campaign to stamp out dissent.

Hayley attribution