The trial against two former Congolese rebel leaders for crimes allegedly committed by their militias in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2003 is set to begin tomorrow in The Hague at the International Criminal Court.
Germain Katanga, a senior commander from the group known as the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), faces three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes for a deadly assault on the village of Bogoro, in the province of Ituri. Hundreds of people were killed and many women forced into sexual slavery in that February 2003 attack.
Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui is a former commander of the rebel National Integrationalist Front (FNI). He faces three counts of crimes against humanity and six of war crimes, and is alleged to have played a key role in designing and carrying out the Bogoro attack.
Among the crimes the two men are accused of is using children under the age of 15 in active hostilities, including as bodyguards and combatants, during the deadly assault on Bogoro.
Ten child soldiers will be among the 345 people authorized to take part in the trial, the second one to be held at the ICC with regard to the situation in the DRC. The first was that of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese warlord accused of recruiting child soldiers, whose trial began in January 2009.
Silvana Arbia, the Court’s Registrar, affirmed at a news conference at ICC headquarters today that “the Court is to become a model of fairness of procedures, of respect for the rights of the Defence, and for victims’ participation.”
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he intends to call 26 witnesses, including an expert witness on gender issues and on the military aspects of the crimes, during the upcoming trial.
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.