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Congo militia leader appears at ICC
Katanga is accused of masterminding massacre and rape of villagers.
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2007 23:44 GMT

Katanga was transferred to the Netherlands
from the DRC last week [AFP]

Germain Katanga, a former Congolese militia leader accused of murder, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers has appeared before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
 
Only the second war crimes suspect to stand before the ICC, Katanga's initial appearance on Monday was hindered by language problems.

The court took a break to find interpreters who spoke his native Lingala after he said he was not fluent in French.

 

During the initial hearing, Katanga, 29, sat quietly with his head bowed. He faces three charges of crimes against humanity and six relating to war crimes.

FRPI leader
 
Katanga formerly led the Forces for the Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), a militia fighting for the interests of the Lendu ethnic group against the Hema group in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
 
Among allegations cited in the ICC arrest warrant, Katanga - also known as Simba - planned and led an "attack on the village of Bogoro [and] ... the murder of about 200 civilians, causing serious  bodily harm" to other villagers.

 

Women and girls were raped and forced into sexual slavery while child fighters forcibly enlisted from the looted village, according to evidence presented to the court.

 

Witnesses have accused ethnic Lendu fighters in Katanga's militia of eating the still-warm hearts and livers of those killed.

 

Judges at the court issued a sealed warrant for Katanga's arrest on July 2, saying there were "reasonable grounds to believe" the attack on Bogoro was part of a systematic campaign against members of the Hema ethnic group in Ituri carried out by Katanga's militia and the armed Nationalist and Integrationist Front between January and March 2003.

 

"Katanga's name will forever be associated with the name of Bogoro: an ordinary village he had ordered fighters under his command to 'wipe out'," Fatou Bensouda, an ICC deputy prosecutor at The Hague, said.

 

'Significant step'

   

Human rights campaigners welcomed Katanga's transfer to the ICC.

 

"It's a significant step forward that another individual has been transferred to The Hague," Anneke Van Woudenberg, a Congo researcher with Human Rights Watch, said.

   

Women and girls were allegedly raped
in the attack on Bogoro village [AFP]
Speaking from New York, she urged ICC prosecutors to investigate what she said were the "political masters" of Congolese military leaders who pillaged, raped and killed civilians in Ituri between 2002 and 2003.

 

Katanga was made a general in the Congolese army early in 2005 by Joseph Kabila, the president, as part of a power sharing deal with militia leaders that ended Congo's devastating 1998-2002 civil war.

 

But he was arrested two months later in connection with the killing of nine UN peacekeepers in northeastern Congo in February 2005.

 

He is believed to have been in custody ever since, though he has never been tried for the slayings.

 

Katanga's ICC warrant was unsealed on Thursday, after the Congolese authorities, who had been detaining him, turned him over and sent him to the Netherlands, where he was transferred to the ICC's detention unit built inside a Dutch prison near the country's North Sea coast.

 

The only other suspect in the cell block is Thomas Lubanga, head of a rival militia from the same region of Congo, whose trial on charges of recruiting and using child soldiers in Ituri is expected to start early next year.

 

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the court was investigating more brutal crimes in Congo.

 

"Today a second person from [Congo] is in custody, and he will not be the last one to face justice in the ICC," he said. "Perpetrators must know they will be prosecuted."

 

Enforcement challenges

 

But the fact that Katanga was already in Congolese custody before his arrest - as was Lubanga before him - highlights one of the ICC's recurring problems: its inability to get its hands on suspects not being held by co-operative governments.

 

Warrants for senior government or militia leaders in Sudan and Uganda have not been enforced.

 

"The issue of arresting people remains a challenge for the ICC," the court's deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

 

The court has no police force to execute arrest warrants and instead has to rely on co-operation from other states in detaining suspects.

Source:
Agencies
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