7 March 2014 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top envoy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today welcomed the verdict issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against a former Congolese militia leader for war crimes in relation to a 2003 attack in the country’s east.
Hundreds of people were killed and many women were forced into sexual slavery as a result of the attack on Bogoro village in Ituri district.
Germain Katanga, a senior commander from the group known as the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), was convicted on four counts of war crimes and one count of crimes against humanity, namely murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging.
“This is an important verdict for the victims of these horrific crimes, for international justice, and for the fight against impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.
“The Secretary-General reaffirms the strong commitment of the United Nations to support the independent work of the Court as the centrepiece of the international criminal justice system,” it added.
The Court said in a statement that, in light of the witness testimonies and the evidence presented before the Chamber, “it had been established beyond reasonable doubt that Germain Katanga had made a significant contribution to the commission of the crimes by the Ngiti militia, which was acting with a common purpose, by assisting its members to plan the operation against Bogoro.”
At the same time, the ICC’s Trial Chamber acquitted Mr. Katanga of the other charges that he was facing. In this regard, the Chamber found that there was evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the crimes of rape and sexual slavery were committed, and that there were children within the Ngiti militia and among the combatants who were in Bogoro on the day of the attack.
“However, the Chamber concluded that the evidence presented in support of the accused’s guilt did not satisfy it beyond reasonable doubt of the accused’s responsibility for these crimes.”
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for DRC, Martin Kobler, said the conviction “was yet another warning to armed groups to immediately cease attacks against civilians and lay down their arms.”
In a statement from the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO), which he heads, Mr. Kobler also said that combatting impunity is fundamental to stabilizing the country and establishing a durable peace.
Decisions on Mr. Katanga’s sentencing and victim reparations will be rendered later. The Prosecutor and the Defence may appeal the judgment within 30 days.
Located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, the ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue