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Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; International Criminal Court: Militia Leader Convicted of War Crimes

(Mar. 20, 2014) On March 7, 2014, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Germain Katanga, a former militia leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of four counts of war crimes and one crime against humanity. He was acquitted of other charges, including using child soldiers, rape, and sexual slavery. The decision, delivered by Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte, said that the evidence and witness testimony showed that Katanga made a “significant contribution to the commission of crimes by the Ngiti militia.” (Dominic Yobbi, ICC Convicts Congo Militia Leader of War Crimes, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Mar. 7, 2014); see also Constance A. Johnson, International Criminal Court; Trial of Congolese Leader to Continue, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (July 14, 2010).)

The crimes in question occurred on February 24, 2003, during an attack in the village of Bogoro that resulted in the deaths of 200 civilians and also involved sexual assaults. The trial process took six years and was the second conviction in the Court’s 12-year history. (Press Release, ICC, Germain Katanga Found Guilty of Four Counts of War Crimes and One Count of Crime Against Humanity Committed in Ituri, DRC (Mar. 7, 2014); Yobbi, supra.)

While there was one dissenting opinion, the majority was “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt” of Katanga’s “guilt as an accessory, within the meaning of article 25(3)(d) of the ICC’s founding treaty … to one crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) … .”
(Press Release, supra.)

The founding treaty of the ICC is the Rome Statute. Article 23(3)(d) states that a person can be held criminally responsible for crimes if that person contributed to the crimes’ commission by a group acting jointly. (Rome Statute of the ICC, A/Conf.183/9 (July 17, 1998), ICC website.) The ICC found that Katanga was the intermediary between those supplying weapons and the militia members who committed the crimes. Furthermore, he helped build up the capability of the Ngiti militia to operate in an “organized and efficient manner.” (Press Release, supra.) Katanga was acquitted of some other charges as the Court found that it was not established beyond reasonable doubt that he contributed to those other actions of the militia, including the use of child soldiers. (Id.)

The trial, which began November 24, 2009, included 265 days of hearings and involved testimony from 25 prosecution witnesses, 28 defense witnesses, and two witnesses called by the victims’ legal representatives. Katanga is being held pending sentencing and an announcement of any reparations awarded. Within the next 30 days, both the prosecution and the defense have the right to appeal the decision. (Id.)