• Saturday, October 25, 2014

ICC convicts Congo militia leader

BBC Online

The International Criminal Court has found Congo militia leader Germain Katanga guilty of war crimes but acquitted him of sexual offences.

He was found guilty of complicity in the 2003 massacre of villagers in the gold-rich Ituri province of north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

He becomes just the second person to be convicted by the court since it was set up in The Hague in 2002.

He would have been the first convicted of sexual crimes.

Katanga, who was transferred to The Hague by the Congolese authorities in 2007, had denied the charges.

The fighting in Ituri, which broke out in 1999 and continued until 2003, started as a struggle for control of land and resources.

But it escalated into inter-ethnic war, exacerbated by the presence of Uganda troops, that killed an estimated 50,000 people.

Katanga was convicted of being an accessory to an attack on Bogoro that took place on 24 February 2003, killing more than 200 people.

In a majority verdict, the judges said he had helped supply the weapons used in the attack but they acquitted him of direct involvement.

He was also cleared of using child soldiers.

ICC prosecutors at The Hague say the assault was designed to "wipe out" the entire strategically important village, which is close to the Ugandan border.

According to the prosecution, the attack happened early in the morning and some villagers were shot while they slept, while others were cut up with machetes to save bullets.

Without the "supply of weapons... commanders would not have been able to carry out the attack with such efficiency," said presiding judge Bruno Cotte.

At the time Katanga was 24 years old and the alleged commander of the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri (FRPI), which had the support of the Lendu ethnic group.

The prosecution said that as the FRPI's leader, he was to blame for the atrocities committed by his fighters against the villagers from the Hema ethnic group.

It was also alleged that the women who survived the massacre were raped or kept as sex slaves.

Published: 5:07 pm Friday, March 07, 2014

Last modified: 9:43 pm Friday, March 07, 2014

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