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Katanga Loses Appeal Against US$1 Million Reparations Order

International Criminal Court (ICC) appeals judges have confirmed the reparations order issued last year against former Congolese rebel leader Germain Katanga, including the US$1 million that he was ordered to pay to victims of his crimes.

Also in the ruling delivered on March 8, appeals judges directed the trial chamber that issued the reparations order to freshly assess five applications for reparations that they disallowed. Trial judges earlier concluded that they were unable to determine a causal nexus between the trauma suffered by the five applicants and the attack in 2003 on the Congolese town of Bogoro over which Katanga was convicted.

The five victims were born after the Bogoro attack, but they applied for reparations claiming “transgenerational harm” passed on to them from their parents who suffered trauma from the Bogoro crimes. Appeals judges ordered that these applications should be reassessed because they are few and the trial chamber already established that the applicants suffered psychological harm that was “in all likelihood” transgenerational.

Katanga, a former leader of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri) armed militia, was convicted in March 2014 of being an accessory to war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the attack on civilians. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Last year, judges ordered awards for reparations to 297 victims, totaling US$1 million. However, Katanga appealed, claiming he lacked the ability to pay and that this amount did not fairly reflect the role he played in the crimes for which he was convicted.

In the unanimous ruling, judges noted that the purpose of reparations is to repair the harm inflicted on victims. Therefore, whether other individuals contributed to the harm caused by the crimes for which the person was convicted was irrelevant to the convicted person’s liability to repair that harm. “While a reparations order must not exceed the overall cost to repair the harm caused, it is not, per se, inappropriate to hold the person liable for the full amount necessary to repair the harm,” the judges ruled.

The judges cited the Thomas Lubanga reparations appeal judgment, which determined that a convicted person’s liability for reparations must be proportionate to the harm caused and their participation in committing the crimes. The judges added, however, that this did not mean that the amount of reparations a convicted person is liable for must reflect their responsibility for the harm in relation to others who may have contributed to that harm.

Judges rejected Katanga’s argument that he faces double punishment on account of the magnitude of the award against him. They stated that as long as a convicted person is held liable for the costs that it takes to repair the harm caused, there is no punitive element. “That this amount may be high is simply a result of the extent of the harm caused by the crimes for which the person was convicted,” the judges added.

However, appeals judges did take issue with the trial chamber’s decision to assess each application for reparations, which they said was not the most appropriate approach. They also said this approach was “time-consuming, … resource-intensive” and led to unnecessary delays in awarding reparations. Moreover, the determined value of Katanga’s liability bore no relationship to reparations projects proposed by the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV).

The Appeals Chamber determined that the definition of “victims” entitled to reparations under Article 75 of the Statute, whether direct or indirect, is not restricted to any specific class of persons. Similarly, the judges noted, the definition of victims under Rule 85(a) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence emphasizes the requirement of the existence of harm rather than whether the indirect victim was a close or distant family member of the direct victim.