Al Jazeera America &/ The Associated Press – 2014-05-24 00:04:23
Congo Warlord Katanga Sentenced to 12 Years
Al Jazeera America &/ The Associated Press
(May 23, 2014) — The International Criminal Court on Friday sentenced a Congolese warlord to 12 years in prison after convicting him in March of aiding and abetting crimes, including murder and pillage, in a notorious 2003 attack on a village in which some 200 people were shot or hacked to death.
Germain Katanga, nicknamed Simba, showed no emotion as Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte read the sentence. Katanga is only the second person sentenced by the court in the Hague, Netherlands. He could be free soon, as he already has been under court detention for almost seven years.
He was convicted for his role on the attack on the strategic village of Bogoro in eastern Congo’s conflict-hit Ituri province on Feb. 24, 2003.
Cotte said Katanga, who was 24 at the time, made a “significant contribution” to the crimes. But Cotte also gave Katanga credit for helping demobilize child soldiers in Ituri.
“The sentence of Germain Katanga to 12 years imprisonment by the ICC gives hope to victims and sends a strong signal to all perpetrators of serious crimes who now know that they will be actively pursued and prosecuted,” said Joseph Dunia Ruyenzi, a Congolese activist for the Coalition for the ICC, a group that promotes the court’s work.
Katanga was convicted in a 2-1 majority verdict of playing an important role in the attack on Bogoro by arming rebel fighters and “reinforcing the strike capability of the militia.”
The conviction was controversial, with one of the three judges saying the court’s decision to change the nature of charges against Katanga during his prosecution hampered his ability to defend himself.
Katanga originally was charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” in the crimes, but judges changed the nature of his involvement to cast him as an “accessory,” effectively downgrading his involvement in the attack.
Congo Warlord Found Guilty of Aiding War Crimes
Al Jazeera America
(March 7, 2014) — Congolese warlord Germain Katanga has been convicted of being an accessory to crimes including murder and pillage during an attack on a village in a diamond-rich region of Congo in 2003 — marking the second conviction in the International Criminal Court’s 11-year history.
Reading the verdict on Friday, presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said that without Katanga’s help in procuring firearms, the attack — which left about 200 civilians dead — would not have been as bloody.
“Absent that supply of weapons . . . commanders would not have been able to carry out the attack with such efficiency,” Cotte said at the conclusion of the five-year trial, the Reuters news agency reported.
The court acquitted Katanga of charges of direct involvement in the attack. Katanga was also found not guilty of using child soldiers and acquitted of charges related to rape and sexual slavery.
During the trial, conflicting testimonies were heard as to whether he was the head of armed group the Patriotic Resistance Force.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Rob Williams, CEO of non-governmental organization War Child, said the verdict would not satisfy some of the victims because they had received witness statements detailing severe sexual violence carried out by the Patriotic Resistance Force.
“One girl in Bogoro said she was dragged out of her home at night, abducted and kept as a slave by rebels, who raped her repeatedly,” said Williams.
However, one of the three judges slammed Friday’s verdict, saying that the court changed the nature of the charges against Katanga during the trial, depriving him of the ability to defend himself.
Katanga will be sentenced after a separate hearing.
Al Jazeera and wire services.
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