TIME Africa

International Court Convicts Congo Rebel of War Crimes

Former Congolese warlord militiaman Germain Katanga sitting in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2009.
Former Congolese warlord militiaman Germain Katanga sitting in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2009. Michael Kooren—AFP/Getty Images

Former warlord Germain Katanga was convicted by the International Criminal Court of a crime against humanity and four war crimes for his involvement in a 2003 attack that left about 200 villagers dead in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The International Criminal Court found Congolese rebel leader Germain Katanga guilty of a crime against humanity and four war crimes on Friday, making him the second person to be convicted since the court was established in 2002.

The charges against Katanga, 35, stem from a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than a decade ago, when the Ituri region was years deep into fighting that started over the control of land and natural resources. The unrest later devolved into all-out war between ethnic groups that left an estimated 50,000 people dead.

Katanga, who was transferred to The Hague by Congolese authorities in 2007 and denied the charges, was tried over complicity in planning and leading an attack in Bogoro on Feb. 24, 2003, when at least 200 people were killed. He was found guilty of murder—the crime against humanity—as well as four other war crimes: murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging.

The three-judge panel said Katanga, who was 24 at the time and thought to be the commander of the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri, helped to supply the weapons used in the early morning attack meant to “wipe out” Bogoro, strategically located near Uganda.

Nicknamed ‘Simba,’ or lion, he showed no emotion as judges convicted him as accessory in the attack. He was cleared of direct involvement as well as offenses like sexual slavery, rape and using child soldiers, even though young combatants were in Bogoro that day.

Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert of Belgium, in a dissent read by another judge, slammed the verdict, writing “the only thing I pretend to know is that we do not know enough to convict Germain Katanga of the charges against him.” She also claimed his right to a speedy trial was violated and Friday’s majority verdict was “unjustifiably late.”

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