Germain Katanga: guilty, but by how much?

14 May 2014 by Tjitske Lingsma, The Hague (The Netherlands)

For the second time in its 12 years’ existence, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has held a sentencing hearing. The prosecution sought a maximum 25 years in prison for the former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga. The defence underlined his relatively lowly status and his youth as mitigating factors.

Germain Katanga, a short man from Ituri, a troubled region in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), stood up in the dock, where he had spend 239 days of hearings at the ICC in The Hague – six years and a half after his transfer [IJT-76]. As he addressed the court, the former commander of the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force (FRPI) – a militia group of the Ngiti ethnic community – folded his two arms behind his back. The sentencing hearing, held on 5 and 6 May, was reaching its conclusion. 

Reading from his notes, Katanga sounded like a defence lawyer, detailing the twists and turns of his case: found guilty on 7 March by two of the three judges, as an “accessory” to a crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging); crimes that had been committed against civilians of the rival Hema tribe, during a one-day attack on 24 February 2003 in Bogoro. This village also harboured a unit of 100 to 200 Hema militia. 

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