Congolese war crimes suspect turned over to International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court (ICC) today announced that suspected war criminal Germain Katanga, former senior commander of the militia group Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was surrendered to its detention centre at The Hague.
He joins Congolese suspect Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who will be tried on crimes relating to the recruitment of children as soldiers in what is widely viewed as a milestone in international attempts to fight immunity on the issue.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement today that more action can be expected. “We are selecting a third case. The DRC is still engulfed in violence. There is forced displacement of people, sexual violence of shocking brutality, and killings. It must stop. Perpetrators must know they will be prosecuted. The ICC is at work in the DRC.”
In sealed documents submitted to the judges on 22 June, the Office of the Prosecutor presented evidence against Mr. Katanga and charged him with three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes.
“Today we are prosecuting Germain Katanga, leader of a militia group and who we allege is personally responsible for the brutal crimes his forces committed,” said Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who is in charge of prosecuting this case.
“His name will forever be associated with the name of Bogoro: an ordinary village, which he ordered fighters under his command to 'wipe out.' Hundreds were slaughtered. Women were forced into sexual slavery.”
In an interview with the UN News Centre, Mrs. Bensouda described Mr. Katanga as “definitely one of the top fellows” that ICC prosecutors have been pursuing in the DRC.
Between January 2002 and December 2003, more than 8,000 civilians died and more than half a million people were displaced from their homes in Ituri as a result of this conflict. In today's statement, the Prosecutor said evidence will show how civilians were the target of massive crimes in the course of the conflict in the Ituri region of the DRC between the FRPI forces of Mr. Katanga and other armed militia groups.
The charges include the attack on Bogoro on the morning of 24 February 2003, when the prosecution alleges that members of Mr. Katanga's militia entered the village and began an indiscriminate killing spree. At least 200 civilians died in the attack, while survivors were imprisoned in a building filled with corpses. Women were abducted and sexually enslaved. The village was pillaged by the FRPI forces.
Prosecutors allege Mr. Katanga is responsible for murders, inhumane acts and sexual enslavement at Bogoro, constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes, and for cruel treatment at Bogoro constituting a war crime. They also allege he committed the war crime of using children to participate actively in hostilities, the war crime of launching an attack against the civilian population of Bogoro and the war crime of pillaging Bogoro.
Also known as “Simba,” the 29-year old suspect in 2003 emerged as the top commander of a group which began calling itself the FRPI, the ICC said. Later in 2003, he assumed the title of FRPI President. On 11 December 2004, he was appointed to the rank of General in the DRC Army. He was then arrested by the DRC authorities early March 2005, together with eight other militiamen from various Ituri armed groups, in relation to an attack against peacekeepers serving with the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) in Ituri on 25 February 2005 in which nine peacekeepers were killed, and sent to the CPRK detention centre in Kinshasa.
Mr. Katanga will have an initial appearance before the court on Monday afternoon and Mrs. Bensouda said that if the pre-trial chamber confirms the charges, the case will go to trial, probably in the second half of 2008.
Prosecutors began investigating crimes committed in the DRC in June 2004. Its first case for that country is against Mr. Lubanga for the crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under 15 and using them to participate actively in armed hostilities in Ituri. The Court's pre-trial chamber has confirmed the charges against him and he will be the first person to stand trial at the ICC.