12 years for Katanga – civil society reaction

Germain Katanga. © Trial.ch

Germain Katanga. © Trial.ch

We bring you some civil society reaction last month’s sentencing of Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga to 12 years imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during an attack on the village of Bogoro in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2003.

Coalition Convenor William R. Pace:
“With this sentence, victims of the attack on Bogoro village have obtained a measure of important justice for the crimes committed against them, their families and fellow citizens.

Judges are now to decide on reparations that will help rehabilitate victims, their families and affected communities, allowing them to move forward from the crimes they suffered. The Coalition hopes that this conviction and sentencing will send a strong message that atrocities committed against civilians will not go unpunished.  We must now communicate the decision to communities in eastern DRC to reinforce its impact.”

Joseph Dunia Ruyenzi, Sud-Kivu Focal Point for the DRC Coalition for the ICC:
“The condemnation of Germain Katanga to 12 years imprisonment by the ICC gives hope to victims and sends a strong signal to all perpetrators of serious crimes in eastern DRC and around the world. They will not rest easy knowing that that they will be actively pursued and prosecuted.”

Executive Director of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice Brigid Inder:
‘The sentence handed down by the Trial Chamber today is unexpectedly lenient when considering the serious crimes for which Mr Katanga was convicted. Katanga was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder. The Judges have previously noted that based on the evidence in this case at least 60 people were killed in the Bogoro attack.

In addition, destruction of property and pillaging were also widely committed. It is difficult to reconcile a 12 year sentence as reflecting the gravity and scale of these crimes, their ongoing impact on the Bogoro victims or Katanga’s level of responsibility […]

The combatants went from house to house and killed those they found. One of the female witnesses of rape and sexual slavery testified that she was hiding under her bed with her daughters when the combatants found her, stripped her of her blouse and skirt, killed her daughters and forced her to take them to the armoury of another militia camp nearby.”

The International Refugee Rights Intiative’s Oliva Bueno outlined local reactions to the sentencing, with was mixed. Some local groups, like Justice Plus and Justice, Paix et Reconciliation, welcomed the sentencing as a comfort for victims.

Still, some were less satisfied with the decision. Said one civil society leader, “I think that the ICC should understand that the exactions committed by Germain Katanga are not proportional to 12 years. There were massacres, rapes, and pillage…in my mind, 20 years would be a good thing.”

Read our press release or a full summary of the sentencing hearing.

Background
Earlier this year, a majority of ICC Trial Chamber II found that Katanga—commander of the rebel group Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI)—was responsible as an accessory for the crime against humanity of murder and the war crimes of willful killing, intentional attack against the civilian population, pillaging and destruction of property, during an attack on the village of Bogoro in the Ituri district of eastern DRC on 24 February 2003.

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