October 18th, 2007 05:39 EST
War crimes suspect turned over to International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court today announced that suspected war criminal Germain Katanga, former senior commander of the militia group Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was surrendered to its detention centre at The Hague.
The latest suspect joined Congolese suspect Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, who will be tried on crimes relating to the recruitment of children as soldiers in what is widely viewed as a milestone in international attempts to fight immunity on the issue.
In a statement today, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said more action can be expected. “We are selecting a third case. The DRC is still engulfed in violence. There is forced displacement of people, sexual violence of shocking brutality, and killings. It must stop. Perpetrators must know they will be prosecuted. The ICC is at work in the DRC.”
In sealed documents submitted to the judges on 22 June, the Office of the Prosecutor presented evidence against Germain Katanga and charged him with three counts of Crimes against Humanity and six counts of War Crimes.
“Today we are prosecuting Germain Katanga, leader of a militia group and who we allege is personally responsible for the brutal crimes his forces committed,” said Fatou Bensouda, Deputy Prosecutor in charge of the Prosecution of the case.
“His name will forever be associated with the name of Bogoro: an ordinary village, which he ordered fighters under his command to 'wipe out.' Hundreds were slaughtered. Women were forced into sexual slavery.”
Between January 2002 and December 2003, more than 8,000 civilians died and more than half a million people were displaced from their homes in Ituri as a result of this conflict. In today's statement, the Prosecutor said evidence will show how civilians were the target of massive crimes in the course of the conflict in the Ituri region of the DRC between the FRPI forces of Germain Katanga and other armed militia groups.
The charges include the attack on Bogoro on the morning of 24 February 2003, members of Germain Katanga's militia entered the village and began an indiscriminate killing spree, the ICC said. At least 200 civilians died in the attack, while survivors were imprisoned in a building filled with corpses. Women were abducted and sexually enslaved. The village was pillaged by the FRPI forces.
The Prosecutor alleges that Germain Katanga is responsible for Murders, Inhumane acts and Sexual Enslavement at Bogoro village, constituting Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes, and for Cruel Treatment at Bogoro village constituting a War Crime. The Prosecution's evidence will also show that Germain Katanga committed the War Crime of using Children to Participate Actively in Hostilities, the War Crime of launching an Attack against the Civilian Population of Bogoro village and the War Crime of Pillaging the village of Bogoro.
Also known as “Simba,” the 29-year old suspect in 2003 emerged as the top commander of a group which began calling itself the FRPI, the ICC said. Later in 2003, he assumed the title of FRPI President. On 11 December 2004, he was appointed to the rank of General in the DRC Army. He was then arrested by the DRC authorities early March 2005, together with eight other militiamen from various Ituri armed groups, in relation to an attack against peacekeepers serving with the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) in Ituri on 25 February 2005 in which nine peacekeepers were killed, and sent to the CPRK detention centre in Kinshasa.
The Office of the Prosecutor began investigating crimes committed in the DRC in June 2004. The Prosecution's first case in the DRC is against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for the crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under 15 and using them to participate actively in armed hostilities in Ituri. The Court's Pretrial Chamber I has confirmed the charges against him; he will be the first person to stand trial at the ICC.
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