Congolese warlord Germain Katanga has been convicted of being an accessory to crimes including murder and pillage during an attack on a village in a diamond-rich region of Congo in 2003, in which about 200 civilians were killed.
Reading the verdict on Friday, only the second conviction in the International Criminal Court’s 11-year history, presiding judge Bruno Cotte said that without Katanga’s aid in procuring firearms, the attack would not have been as bloody.
“Absent that supply of weapons … commanders would not have been able to carry out the attack with such efficiency,” Cotte said at the conclusion of the five-year trial, the Reuters news agency reported.
The court acquitted Katanga of charges of direct involvement in the attack.
|Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner from Human Rights Watch on the significance of Katanga’s conviction by ICC|
Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker speaking from the Hague said that Katanga was found not guilty of using child soldiers and acquitted of charges related to rape and sexual slavery.
But the court had received conflicting testimonies as to whether he was the head of armed group, the Patriotic Resistance Force, and had found it difficult to prove that in the five years since the trial began, Al Jazeera’s correspondent said.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, War Child’s CEO Rob Williams said the verdict would not satisfy some of the victims because they had received witness statements detailing severe sexual violence carried out by the Patriotic Resistance Force.
“One girl in Bogoro said she was dragged out of her home at night, abducted and kept as a slave by rebels, who raped her repeatedly,” said Williams.
However, one of the three judges slammed Friday’s verdict, saying that the court changed the nature of the charges against Katanga during the trial, depriving him of the ability to defend himself.
Katanga will be sentenced after a separate hearing.