Today, a majority of Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Germain Katanga to 12 years imprisonment for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. His sentence will be reduced by the time he has already served during the trial, approximately seven years. Judge Christine van den Wyngaert dissented.
This is the second sentence handed down by the ICC. The first was for Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriotics (UPC), who was sentenced in 2012 to 14 years of imprisonment for the use of child soldiers.
Germain Katanga is the former leader of an armed militia that became known as the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI, Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri). He was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during a February 2003 attack on Bogoro in in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The attack targeted a rival militia, the UPC, as well as the predominantly Hema civilian population living in Bogoro. While most villagers were still sleeping, Ngiti soldiers attacked the village using guns and machetes. They murdered civilians and destroyed and pillaged their property, the chamber found.
The majority concluded that Katanga had made a significant contribution to the crimes committed by the Ngiti militia by collecting and distributing arms and ammunition to local combatants. These arms were then used in the attack on Bogoro. Katanga knew the combatants intended to commit crimes during the attack, the majority found.
The judges emphasized the need for the sentence to act as a deterrent for future crimes. The chamber also stated that it had considered the need for truth and justice for the victims. Ultimately, the sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the crimes and the extent of Katanga’s participation in the crimes.
In determining the sentence, the chamber considered both aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The chamber noted that the attack on Bogoro was particularly cruel. There were numerous victims, the chamber said, some of whom continue to feel effects of the attack today. The Chamber also noted the clear discriminatory nature of the crimes committed against the Hema living in Bogoro. Moreover, the chamber noted that Katanga significantly contributed to the crimes.
However, these aggravating circumstances are weighed against mitigating circumstances, which the defense argued should result in a reduced sentence. The chamber considered Katanga’s personal situation, including his relatively young age at the time the crimes were committed, and the fact that he is a father of six. The judges also took into account how Katanga protected his community. However, the chamber noted, because of the gravity of the crimes committed against the Hema, these factors did not carry much weight in its sentencing decision.
Other mitigating factors the chamber took into account included his assistance in helping child soldiers disarm and demobilize and his cooperation with the chamber during the trial. The chamber gave very low weight to his remorse for the victims of the crimes, which the defense argued should mitigate against a lengthy sentence. According to the Chamber, his expressions of remorse were very general. Katanga is still having a hard time recognizing that crimes were committed in Bogoro, the chamber said.
The majority concluded that all of these factors taken together should result in a combined sentence of 12 years of imprisonment. This is to be reduced by the time Katanga has spent in the ICC detention center before and during the trial, from September 2007 until today—approximately seven years.
The defense argued that time spent in a jail in the DRC should also be reduced from Katanga’s sentence. The chamber agreed that this would be proper if it were established that the detention violated his fundamental rights. However, the chamber found that it did not have the mandate to rule on potential rights violations that may have occurred in the DRC. The chamber also found that it was outside of its mandate to deal with violations of his rights that may have occurred when he was being held pursuant to the ICC’s arrest warrant, unless the violations were committed in relation to proceedings of the court.
A new chamber will begin proceedings regarding reparations for victims of the attack. In addition, the parties have both appealed the judgment, and the appeals process is underway.