DRC: Germain Katanga before the International Crminal Court, a mixed verdict
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, March 7, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Today, the Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Germain Katanga for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2003.
The infamous warlord from DRC was found guilty of contributing to the crimes of murder, attacks against civilians, destruction of property and pillaging, committed during the attack of the village of Bogoro, in Ituri, early 2003. He was however found not guilty and acquitted for the charges of rape, sexual slavery and use of child soldiers. FIDH and its member organisations in DRC, ASADHO, LE and GL, call upon the ICC and the Congolese authorities to engage in a wide outreach programme in order to explain this judicial decision in DRC and in particular to affected communities.
"After Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, this is the second conviction in a case related to the conflict in the DRC, highlighting the gravity of the crimes that the Congolese population has endured, and reminding us that the suffering of victims should not go unheard" , said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President. "The ICC should engage in a communication and outreach strategy to explain to victims and affected communities the meaning of this decision and its consequences in DRC", said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.
“With some relief we can go to the Congolese communities and confirm that what happened to them was recognised as the most serious crimes, amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes, and should never happen again” , declared Dismas Kitengue, President of Groupe Lotus and FIDH Vice-President.
"Although the Court recognises the commission of crimes of rape and sexual slavery and the presence of child soldiers during this attack, the acquittal of the accused for these crimes is particularly disappointing. The Lubanga case, which failed prosecute crimes of sexual violence, failed the victims of these crimes and women's rights organisations. Today's verdict brings further disillusionment. It is urgent that the Office of the Prosecutor draws the necessary conclusions and takes them into account in its new strategy on investigations and prosecutions, as well as in its policy on crimes of sexual violence, so as to avoid new defeats for victims", said Sheila Muwanga, FIDH Vice-President
"The trial of Germain Katanga has opened our eyes even more to the consequences these crimes have on victims and their lives, and the importance of justice for their deterrence. The international community and DRC should continue this long fight against impunity" , stated Paul Nsapu, President of the Ligue des Electeurs and FIDH Secretary General.
FIDH and its member ogranisations underline that it is of paramount importance that the international community, but also Congolese authorities, continue their efforts to bring the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, committed during the conflict afflicting DRC for two decades, to justice. DRC should urgently promote the establishement of independent and effective specialised mixed Chambers in the courts of DRC to try crimes of international law being committed in DRC, that could not be tried at the ICC. Moreover, the reform of national law is essential to facilitate victims access to Congolese courts and reduce the prohibitive costs of these national proceedings.
This conviction will be followed by a decision on the sentencing and proceedings to establish measures of reparation for the victims, reparation that victims of international crimes never obtained in DRC. Our organisations are calling all States Parties to contribute to the ICC Trust Fund for Victims and cooperate with the Court in ensuring that victims receive adequate and comprehensive reparations.
"We will try to ensure that the victims will receive the reparations to which they are entitled after suffering the consequences of such grave crimes", said Jean Claude Katende, President of ASADHO.
Germain Katanga was on trial before the ICC as part of the proceedings related to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He is the alleged commander of the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), and has been prosecuted for the crimes committed in the village of Bogoro in the Ituri district of Eastern DRC from January to March 2003. The trial against him and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui (the two cases were joined in March 2008) started on 24 November 2009. They were accused of three counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, sexual slavery and rape and seven counts of war crimes. These included: using children under the age of 15 to take active part in hostilities; deliberately directing an attack on a civilian population as such or against individual civilians or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; wilful killing; sexual slavery and rape; destruction of property; and pillaging. The two cases were later severed and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was acquitted on 18 December 2012.
On 7 March 2014, Germain Katanga is found guilty of four counts of war crimes and one count of crime against humanity. The Trial Chamber, by majority, proceeded to the recharacterization of the mode of liability of Mr. Katanga, initially charges as a principal, on the basis of Article 25(3)(d) of the Rome Statute, considering “it has not been proven, in light of the evidence found credible, that... he had the material ability to issue and ensure compliance with orders or, furthermore, that he had the power to punish commanders from various camps”.