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.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has released an arrest warrant for Ivorian ex-minister Charles Ble Goude pertaining to charges over war crime allegations. According to the ICC, he is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity which occurred during the violence that erupted following the 2010 disputed elections in the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile in Guinea, the country’s President has called on the opposition to accept the results of Saturday’s vote. While the provisional results have yet to be announced by the country’s electoral commission, security in the capital city has increased as the atmosphere has been tense.
ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public
While the Ivory Coast’s Charles Ble Goude, 40, has denied leading pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias in the violent attacks that occurred shortly after the 2010 elections, the ICC has indicated that Mr. Ble Goude, who is currently detained in the Ivory Coast, is suspected of murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts that were committed between December 2010 and April 2011. During that time, some 3,000 people lost their lives in the crisis after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat. Judges in The Hague have stated that forces loyal to former President Gbagbo targeted civilians who backed his opponent, the Ivory Coasts current President Alassane Ouattara. Although the arrest warrant for Mr. Ble Goude was issued in December 2011, it has only now been made public and it describes the Ivorian ex-minister as a member of Mr. Gbagbo’s “inner circle.”
Following the post election violence, Mr. Ble Goude spent more than eighteen months in hiding. He was arrested in January 2013 in Ghana and extradited to the Ivory Coast, where he also faces war crimes charges. He has previously stated that as head of the Young Patriots group, he had only organised rallies and meetings and that he never ran a militia. Mr. Ble Goude, who was placed under United Nations sanctions in 2006 for allegedly inciting attacks against UN personnel, has indicated that he is prepared to go in front of the ICC in order to clear his name.
Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, 67, was arrested in 2011 and is currently awaiting trial, on four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the election violence, at The Hague. The former president’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, has also been indicted by the ICC however the Ivory Coast’s ministers have voted to dismiss the ICC warrant and have instead indicated that they will try her in the country’s own courts.
Tensions Increase as Guineas Await Election Results
On Wednesday, in the midst of security being increased throughout the capital city amid fears of violence, Guinean President Alpha Conde urged party leaders to accept the results of the September 28 legislative polls. While the results have not yet been confirmed, the President has praised the vote, calling it the dawn of democracy in the West African state which has been chronically hit with instability. During Conde’s speech, which marked the 55th anniversary of Guinea’s independence from France, the President stated “I would like to say how proud I am…of your amazing mobilization to make these legislative polls a real success.” The 75-year-old added that the election “has allowed us to take another step on the path to democracy.” However while the president has urged for calm as the election results begin to trickle in, the country’s main opposition parties have already stated that the elections were rigged. On Tuesday, Guinea’s electoral commission released some partial and provisional results. Although full provisional results had been due to be released on Wednesday, officials indicated late on Tuesday that tally sheets were still being transported from polling stations.
On Wednesday, police and military reinforcements were visible on the streets of Conakry, with barricades being set up around the headquarters of the electoral commission. Despite the independence day bank holiday, an increased number of shops and market stalls remained shut as the atmosphere continued to be tense.