23 May 2014

Congo-Kinshasa: ICC Sentences D.R.C. Warlord Katanga to 12 Years

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has sentenced former Congolese warlord Katanga to 12 years in jail. Yet human rights groups think the court has not done enough.

Three judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) passed their verdict on the DRC warlord, Germain Katanga, on Friday. In March, the court found Katanga guilty of "murder as a crime against humanity" and "murder as a war crime." He was also convicted of attacks on the civilian population, as well as destroying and looting property.

On February 24, 2003, Katanga's militias attacked the village of Bogoro in the northeastern province of Ituri. Most of the victims belonged to the Hema ethnic group. The fighters are said to have killed some 200 civilians, in addition to plundering and raping. Congolese authorities arrested Katanga in 2007 and handed him over to the ICC.

Judged Bruno Cotte described how the rebels attacked the village armed mainly with machetes.

Lenient verdict?

The verdict is a step in the right direction, Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner from Human Rights Watch told DW in March this year, when Katanga was initially found guilty. She had hoped for an even harsher sentence, as the court only convicted Katanga for being complicit in the crimes, but not as the main perpetrator. "The court did not have enough evidence to show that Katanga was present and in full control of the rebels at the time of the Bogoro massacre," she explains.

In Ituri province itself, the people received the verdict with mixed feelings. "The people here will not benefit from this verdict," Jean-Bosco Lalo, a representative of Ituri's civil society told DW. Little has changed for the people in the region. Initially they had hoped for some kind of compensation, but a fund set up by the ICC only supports certain groups of the victims, like child soldiers. Other people are left to fend for themselves. According to Lalo, the court has done little to involve the people actually affected by the conflict. "We don't understand their proceedings. They just do it their way."

Acquittal for crimes of sexual violence

DRC authorities handed Katanga over to the ICC in 2007.

The ICC judges were also heavily criticized for failing to charge Katanga for crimes relating to the recruitment of child soldiers, rape and sexual enslavement. Brigid Inder from the Women's Initiative for Gender Justice called it a "devastating result for the victims and survivors of the Bogoro attack."

Following the acquittal for crimes of sexual violence, Ugandan women's rights activist, Sheila Muwanga from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), called for a new strategy of addressing crimes of sexual violence. "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," she said. On March 7, 2014, FIDH and its member organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo called on the ICC and the Congolese authorities to "engage in a wide outreach program in order to explain this judicial decision in DRC and in particular to affected communities."

Thomas Lubanga, another Congolese warlord was also convicted for war crimes in eastern DRC. Katanga is the second person to be sentenced by the court. His lawyers have 30 days to appeal the sentence. The judges said that they would deduct the time Katanga has already spent in custody since 2007.

Editor Chrispin Mwakideu

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