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ICC Court Announces Verdict for Congolese Ex-Militia Boss

Posted on in Democratic Republic of the Congo title_rule

On Friday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found Germain Katanga guilty of war crimes but has acquitted him of sexual offences.  He has been found guilty of complicity in a 2003 massacre and becomes just the second person to be convicted by the court since it was set up in The Hague in 2002.  If he had been convicted of sexual offences, he would have been the first to be convicted of sexual crimes.

On Friday, the ICC was due to deliver its verdict in the trial of Congolese ex-militia boss Germain Katanga, who has been accused of using child soldiers in a 2003 attack on a village in the central region of the African country, killing 200 people.  Judge Bruno Cotte read out the verdict at 0830 GMT in the case against Katanga, the one-time commander of the ethnic-based Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI), operating in the DR Congo’s mineral-rich north-eastern region.

Katanga, 35, went on trial more than four years ago, facing seven counts of war crimes and three of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery and rape, for his alleged role in the attack on the small village of Bogoro on 24 April 2003.  During the trial, prosecutors alleged that the man and his forces of the Ngiti and Lendu tribes attacked villagers of the Hema ethnic group with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and machetes, murdering around 200 people.  According to the prosecution, “the attack was intended to ‘wipe out’ or ‘raze’ Bogoro village…”  Child soldiers were used while women and girls were abducted afterwards and used as sex slaves, forced to cook and obey orders from FRPI soldiers.  In 2004, as part of a policy to end the civil strife, Katanga was made a general in President Joseph Kabila’s army, a post he held until he was arrested in 2005.  In October 2007, he was transferred to The Hague while his trial, together with that of his co-accused Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, began two years later.  In November 2012, judges split the trials and a month later, Ngudjolo was acquitted after judges in that case indicated that the prosecution had failed to prove that he had played a commanding role in the Bogoro attack.  This was the first time that the ICCC had acquitted a suspect.  Katanga, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has consistently maintained that he had no direct command or control over the FRPI fighters at the time.  He also denied ever being present at the time of the attack on Bogoro, which is located 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Ituri province’s administrative capital Bunia, near Lake Albert.  The Hague-based ICC has so far only convicted one other suspect, former Congolese rebel fighter Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced in 2012 to 14 years for recruiting and enlisting child soldiers.

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