Friday May 23 2014

Congolese warlord Germain Katanga sentenced to 12 years in jail

Germain Katanga. AFP Photo

Germain Katanga. AFP Photo 

By Agencies

The International Criminal Court has sentenced ex-Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga to 12 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes.

Katanga was found guilty in March, only the second person to be convicted by the Netherlands-based court.

He was behind the 2003 massacre of hundreds of villagers in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The fighting escalated into an inter-ethnic conflict that is estimated to have killed 50,000 people.

In a statement read out to the court in The Hague, a judge said that the more than six years the 36-year-old former militia leader had spent in ICC custody would be taken into account.

The chamber said that he would not be asked to pay a fine.

Known to his supporters as Simba, or "the lion", Katanga was found guilty of planning the ambush on the village in the gold-rich Ituri province.

He was also found to have procured the weapons - including guns and machetes - used to kill more than 200 of the villagers, but he was acquitted of direct involvement.

The rebel leader, who was 24 at the time the crimes took place, was also cleared of using child soldiers and of committing sexual crimes.

The evidence proved that women who survived the massacre had been raped or kept as sex slaves but the judges did not find enough proof to convict Katanga of carrying out these crimes.

After the end of the Ituri conflict, peace deals were signed and Katanga was given a position in the Congolese army.

But a year after joining the military, he was imprisoned for bad behaviour and was still in jail when the ICC issued its arrest warrant for him.

His is one of the longest-running cases at the ICC.

In July 2012, Thomas Lubanga, a rival militia leader in Ituri, was sentenced to 14 years in jail by the ICC for recruiting and using child soldiers.

Germain Katanga's ICC charges

Convicted of accessory to one crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging)
Acquitted of one crime against humanity (sexual slavery) and three counts of war crimes (using child soldiers, sexual slavery, rape)