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Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; International Criminal Court: Convicted War Criminal Sentenced

(May 30, 2014) On May 23, 2014, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Germain Katanga, a militia leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to 12 years of imprisonment. Katanga had been convicted in March 2014 of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his role as the leader of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in the Ituri region of the country. (Jaclyn Belczyk, Congo Militia Leader Sentenced to 12 Years for War Crimes, PAPER CHASE (May 23, 2014); see also Constance A. Johnson, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; International Criminal Court: Militia Leader Convicted of War Crimes, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Mar. 20, 2014).)

The sentence was handed down by a majority of the judges of Trial Chamber II of the ICC. The ruling included the order that the time Katanga has already spent in detention at the ICC be deducted from the sentence. He has been detained for nearly seven years, since September 18, 2007. (Press Release, ICC, Germain Katanga Sentenced to 12 Years’ Imprisonment (May 23, 2014).)

Speaking at a public hearing on the day of the sentencing, Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte summarized the decision and explained that the ICC had considered the need for truth and justice, as called for by the victims and their families, and the need to have the sentence act as a deterrent to any future similar crimes. He went on to decry the cruelty with which the actions that constituted the crimes were committed and to note that civilians had been killed. On the other hand, as a mitigating factor, the ICC looked at Katanga’s behavior after the crimes were committed, particularly his part in the demobilization process that benefited former child soldiers. (Id.)

The conviction by the ICC had not been unanimous, as Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert argued that the trial was unfair on procedural and substantive grounds, in part because Katanga was convicted as an accessory, rather than for playing a direct role in the crimes. She also filed an opinion distancing herself from the sentencing decision. (Dissenting Opinion of Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert, ICC-01/04-01/07-3484-Anx1 23-05-2014 1/3 NM T, ICC website (May 23, 2014); ICC Sentences Congo Warlord Germain Katanga, CHANNELS TELEVISION (May 23, 2014).)