The International Criminal Court has found a Congolese ex-militia boss complicit in war crimes in an attack on a village in the DRC. He was acquitted, however, of charges he used child solders in the incident.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands on Friday found Katanga complicit in war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was found guilty of charges including murder and pillaging.
"The chamber by majority finds Germain Katanga guilty... of complicity in the crimes committed on February 24, 2003," said judge Bruno Cotte.
The former commander of the ethnic-based Patriotic Resistance forces in Ituri (FRPI) was unanimously found not guilty of charges concerning the use of child soldiers, as well as being an accessory to rape and sexual slavery.
Katanga is to remain in the court's custody until he is sentenced at a later date.
Friday's verdict is only the ICC's second conviction since it opened more than a decade ago, and the trial is the first to feature sexual violence charges.
Deadly village attack
The 35-year-old had been charged with ten counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the February 2003 attack on the small village of Bogoro. Prosecutors accused the man once known as "Simba" (Lion) and his militia group, made up of the Ngiti and Lendu tribes, of using machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and machetes on ethnic Hema villagers in an attack that left around 200 people dead.
Child soldiers were allegedly used in the attack, and women and girls were later abducted and used as sex slaves, forced to cook and obey orders from FRPI soldiers.
Cotte said that if Kantaga had not helped the attackers procure arms, there would not have been as much bloodshed.
"Absent that supply of weapons ... commanders would not have been able to carry out the attack with such efficiency," Cotte said.
One of the three judges criticized the verdict, saying the court changed the nature of the charges against Katanga during the trial, thus depriving him of the ability to defend himself.
Congo President Joseph Kabila made Katanga a general in his army as part of a policy to combat civil unrest, until government authorities arrested him in 2005. He was transferred to The Hague in 2007.
Katanga first went on trial four years ago, along with another militia leader, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. Judges split the trials in November 2012, allowing prosecutors more time to gather evidence that Katanga had contributed to the crimes, not that he was central to them as originally charged. Chui was acquitted last year for lack of evidence – the first time the ICC had ever done so.
dr/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)