23 May 2014

Congo-Kinshasa: ICC Sentences Congolese Militia Leader to 12 Years in Jail

Arusha — The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday sentenced former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga to 12 years in jail for crimes committed in 2003 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"The Chamber sets a single sentence of 12 years' imprisonment," said presiding judge Bruno Cotte, saying that time already spent in detention would be deducted from the sentence.

The Prosecutor had asked for a heavy sentence of between 22 and 25 years.

In March 7, 2014, the court found Katanga guilty of complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on February 24, 2003, in Bogoro, in the eastern Congolese district of Ituri.

According to the judges, this former commander of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (Forces de résistance patriotiques en Ituri, FRPI) played a part in the attack on Bogoro, even if his direct participation had not been proven.

He played a "significant role" by providing arms, according to the judgment. The court said that without this, the commanders and fighters would not have been able to commit the crimes in Bogoro on such a large scale against members of the Hema community.

In determining the sentence, the judges took into account the ethnic nature of the attack and its ferocity. "The site was left strewn with corpses," Judge Cotte said on Friday.

Nonetheless, the court also took into account as mitigating factors Katanga's participation in peace talks after the fighting, his cooperation with the ICC procedures and his family responsibilities. Now aged 36, Katanga has 6 children, some of whom are very young.

His trial, which was originally joined with that of another militia commander Mathieu Ngudjolo, began on November 24, 2009. However, the court decided in November 2012 to separate the two cases. Ngudjolo was acquitted the following month, leaving his compatriot in the ICC prison in The Hague.

Katanga's is the second judgment handed down by the ICC. The first one concerned another Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced to 14 years in jail for conscripting and using child soldiers in his troops in 2002 and 2003, also in Ituri. His appeals hearings were held on Monday and Tuesday this week.

The ICC, which started operating in 2003, is the first permanent international court charged with bringing to justice those suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

ER/ JC

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