Germain Katanga

Former leader of the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI) appears before the ICC for his convinction, May 2014. © ICC-CPI
Congolese rebel leader Germain Katanga was convicted by the ICC in March 2014 of war crimes and crimes against humanity during an attack against Bogoro village in Ituri in eastern DRC. Sentenced to 12 year imprisonment.
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Africa
Congolese rebel leader Germain Katanga was convicted by the ICC in March 2014 of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during an attack against Bogoro village in Ituri in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) around 24 February 2003 - a joint effort with the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (Allied Forces of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front, FNI), led by Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. ICC warrants were issued for the arrest of Katanga (2007) and Ngudjolo (2008). Katanga was sentenced to 12 years in prison May 2014. The sentence was reduced by time served in ICC custody and further reduced to three years and eight months after Katanga completed two-thirds of the sentence. Katanga completed his ICC sentence on 18 January 2016 in the DRC, where he faces national war crimes prosecution.

Judges found that as commander of the Forces de Résistance Patriotique d’Ituri (FRPI), an armed rebel group fighting for political and military control of Ituri, Katanga was pivotal in planning and executing the attack on Borogo village during which 200 civilians were killed, and following the attack, Hema civilians' property was pillaged and women and girls from Bogoro abducted to serve as "wives" for combatants.

 

Background

Bogoro village massacre

A violent armed conflict between Lendu, Ngiti, and Hema ethnic groups consumed eastern DRC's Ituri province from 1999-2003. On 24 February 2003, the Force de résistance patriotique d'Ituri (FRPI) and the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI) militias, consisting of Ngiti and Lendu rebels respectively, launched a reprisal operation against Hema civilians in Bogoro, a strategic point on the road between district capital Bunia and the Ugandan border - the Hema-dominated Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) had seized control of Bunia with Uganda's assistance in 2002. Evidence from the attack shows murder, pillaging, destruction of property, sexual crimes, and the use of FRPI child soldiers. 200 civilians were killed, and following the attack, Hema civilians' property was pillaged and women and girls from Bogoro abducted to serve as "wives" for combatants.

ICC seeks arrest of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui

The ICC prosecutor suspected FPRI commander Germain Katanga was pivotal in planning and executing the attack against Bogoro village - a joint effort with the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (Allied Forces of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front, FNI), led by Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. ICC warrants were issued for the arrest of Katanga (2007) and Ngudjolo (2008).

Charges

Katanga was charged with murder, rape, and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity and attacks against a civilian population, murder, destruction of enemy property, pillaging, and using child soldiers as war crimes. The case marked the first time crimes against humanity and sexual- and gender-based crimes charges were brought by the ICC Prosecutor.

Katanga and Ngudjolo sent to trial; cases then severed

Pre-Trial Chamber I decided on 10 March 2008 to try Katanga jointly with Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, former commander of FNI, as a co-perpetrator of a common plan to execute the attack on Bogoro. The cases were later separated, however, due to the possibility of Katanga's mode of criminal liability charges being amended to 'accessory' based on the role played by FPRI combatants in the Bogoro attack. ICC judges noted this change could prejudice Ngudjolo's right to a fair and expeditious trial.

The joint Katanga and Ngudjolo trial commenced on 24 November 2009.

Verdict

On 7 March 2014, a majority of Trial Chamber II found Katanga guilty as an accessory to one count of crimes against humanity (murder) and four counts of war crimes (attacks against a civilian population, murder, destruction of enemy property, and pillaging). The verdict followed Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui's acquittal for his alleged involvement as FNI commander during the Bogoro attack.

Acquitted on sexual and gender based crimes and child soldier charges

In the final trial judgment, Katanga was acquitted on charges of rape and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity and using children under 15 to actively participate in hostilities as a war crime.

Katanga and Prosecution drop appeals

Katanga dropped his appeal of the judgment and issued a declaration accepting responsibility and expressing his “sincere regret” to all those who suffered as a result of his conduct. The ICC prosecutor as a result dropped appeals relating to the sentence and to the judgment on rape and sexual slavery charges. The legal representatives for both victim groups in the case denied involvement in or satisfaction with the deal made between the prosecution and defense.

Sentencing

Katanga was sentenced to 12 years in prison on 23 May 2014, reduced by the almost seven years he had already spent in detention at the ICC prior to sentencing. The ICC prosecutor had advocated a 22 to 25-year sentence to reflect the impact of the crimes, further arguing that a lack of hierarchy among the modes of criminal liability means Katanga should not receive a lesser sentence as an accessory. Following a review panel to which Katanga was entitled after serving two-thirds of his sentence, the sentence was reduced to 3 years and 8 months, with Katanga’s willingness to cooperate and public expressions of remorse and responsibility cited as factors in the decision. Katanga completed his sentence in the DRC on 18 January 2016.

Challenges

Defense rights at stake in national prosecution?

Following his release in the DRC on  18 January 2016, Katanga was committed to trial before the High Military Court (HMC) in Kinshasa, where he was initially arrested in March 2005 for war crimes related to the 2005 killings of nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Ituri. Three defense witnesses from Katanga’s ICC trial face charges in the same case. ICC judges have confirmed that he will not be tried for the same crimes covered by the final ICC judgment. Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, has expressed concern about potential violations of international fair trial standards and has called on Congolese authorities to ensure the defendants’ rights to fair and speedy trials.

Victims

366 victims in total were authorized to participate in the Katanga case. Reparations proceedings in this case are currently before Trial Chamber II.

Victims choose common legal representative

The ICC Registry temporarily appointed a common legal representative of victims (LRV) and finalized the selection only after the victims did not object. The Registry’s approach has since evolved and now only involves general consultation with victims regarding characteristics they deem important in a  common LRV. The common LRV in Katanga represented a main group of victims while another council was appointed to represent the specific interests of a group of former child soldiers.