Germain Katanga, alias ”Simba”, was born on 28 April 1978 in the district of Ituri, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Katanga is alleged to have been the highest ranking leader of the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI) since the beginning of 2003. On 11 December 2004, he was reportedly promoted to the rank of General in the Army of the DRC.
Between January 2002 and December 2003, over 8’000 civilians died and more than half a million persons were displaced from their homes in Ituri as a consequence of the armed conflict between the FRPI and other armed militias in the region of Ituri. Between January 2003 and at least March 2003, the FRPI and the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI) were reported to have conducted attacks – in a systematic or widespread manner – against the civilian population in various parts of Ituri.
As the highest ranking commander of the FRPI, Katanga was said to have played an essential role in the planning and the implementation of an indiscriminate attack against the village of Bogoro in Ituri, on or around 24 February 2003, together with other commanders of the FNI. He was also believed to have ordered his subalterns to launch this attack.
On the morning of 24 February 2003, members of Katanga’s militia allegedly entered the village of Bogoro and launched an indiscriminate attack, targeting mainly civilian members of the Hema ethnic group. It was alleged that the FRPI had children under the age of fifteen participate in the attack during which at least 200 civilians were killed. Those who survived the initial attack were locked up in a building where the bodies of the dead persons had been piled up. Furthermore, women and young girls were abducted to be turned into sexual slaves. Finally, the FRPI ended up totally pillaging the village of Bogoro, thus wiping it off the map.
CASE BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
In early March 2005, Katanga was arrested in a Kinshasa hotel by the Congolese authorities, along with eight other members of various Ituri armed groups and transferred soon after to the CPRK detention centre in Kinshasa.
He was handed over by the Congolese authorities and transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 17 October 2007. A sealed warrant for his arrest had been issued by the Pre-trial Chamber I of the ICC on 2 July 2007 and was unsealed on 18 October 2007.
His initial trial appearance took place on 22 October 2007.
On 10 March 2008, the Pre-Trial Chamber I decided to join the cases of Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui.
On 26 September 2008, the Pre-Trial Chamber I issued its confirmation of charges against Katanga. The Chamber confirmed the following charges for crimes allegedly committed in Bogoro from January to March 2003:
- using children under the age of fifteen to take active part in hostilities as a war crime;
- directing an attack against civilians as a war crime;
- wilful killing as a war crime;
- destruction of property as a war crime
- pillaging as a war crime
- sexual slavery as a war crime;
- rape as a war crime;
- murder as a crime against humanity;
- rape as a crime against humanity; and
- sexual slavery as a crime against humanity.
The trial began on 24 November 2009. Katanga pleaded not-guilty.
On 12 July 2010, the Appeals Court Chamber confirmed the Trial Chamber’s decision to reject a request by the defence to suspend proceedings against Katanga on his supposedly illegal arrest and detention in the DRC before being turned over to the court.
On 7 March 2014, Trial Chamber II of the ICC established beyond reasonable doubt that Katanga was guilty of one crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) committed on 24 February 2003 during the attack on the village of Bogoro, in the Ituri district in DRC.
On 9 April 2014, contesting the entirety of the verdict pronounced against him, Katanga decided to launch an appeal.
On the same day, the Prosecution appealed the acquittals of Katanga for rape and sexual slavery as a crime against humanity and a war crime, including the findings that led to those acquittals.
On 23 May 2014, the Majority of Trial Chamber II sentenced Katanga to 12 years of imprisonment. Additionally, the Chamber ordered that the time he spent in detention – from 18 September 2007 to 23 May 2014 – be deduced from his sentence.
On 25 June 2014, Katanga’s defence counsel as well as the Office of the Prosecutor discontinued their appeals, which effectively finalised the judgment rendered in March.
On 13 November 2015, the Appeals Chamber reviewed Katanga’s sentence and decided to reduce it by three years and eight months, leading to a release planned for 18 January 2016. The Appeals Chamber based this decision on the fact that Katanga cooperated with the ICC in its investigations and prosecutions, that he showed a genuine dissociation from his crimes, that it was likely that he would be successfully re-socialized and resettled in the DRC, and that he had an increased level of family responsibilities given recent deaths in his family.
On 24 November 2015, the ICC and the DRC finalized an ad hoc agreement, expressing the acceptance from the DRC to welcome Thomas Lubanga, another ICC convict, and Katanga for the execution of their prison sentences. On 8 December 2015, the ICC presidency decided that the sentences of Katanga and Lubanga would be served under the supervision of the ICC in the DRC, in accordance with the Rome Statute.
On 19 December 2015, Lubanga and Katanga left the ICC detention center in The Hague to reach Kinshasa.
On 24 March 2017, Trial Chamber II issued an Order awarding individual and collective reparations to the victims of the crimes committed by Katanga on 24 February 2003 during the attack on Bogoro. The Judges awarded each of 297 victims with a symbolic compensation of 250 USD, as well as collective reparations in the form of support for housing, for income-generating activities, education aid and psychological support. The Chamber set the amount of Katanga’s liability of 1’000’000 USD. Due to Katanga’s indigence, the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims was invite to use its own resources for the reparations.
Appeals against the order for reparations were filed respectively by Katanga, the Legal Representative of Victims, and the Office of Public Counsel for Victims.
On 8 March 2018, the ICC Appeals Chamber delivered its Judgment on the appeals, largely confirming the Reparations Order. It rejected the appeals of Katanga and of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims. In relation to the appeal brought by the Legal Representative of Victims, the Appeals Chamber remanded the matter to the Trial Chamber for re-evaluation.
CASE BEFORE THE HIGH MILITARY COURT IN KINSHASA, DRC
On 30 December 2015 a DRC military prosecutor brought new charges against Katanga for alleged conduct before his arrest by the ICC and unrelated to the Bogoro attack for which the ICC already convicted him.
He has been charged with war crimes for having conscripted and enrolled children under the age of fifteen into armed groups or for using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri between 2003 and 2005. He is also accused of crimes against humanity for the murders of 14 people in Bunia in 2003, as well as for murders carried out in various villages in Ituri between 2002 and 2005, together with his soldiers.
Katanga is the second person in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC), following the arrest of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the alleged founder and leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), on 28 August 2006. On 6 February 2008, a third person, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, the former head of the FNI and colonel in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government troops, was arrested and transferred to The Hague. The Pre-Trial Chamber then joined the charges against Ngudjolo Chui and Katanga.
THE FIRST CONGO WAR
After almost 40 years under the dictatorship of Mobutu, a new period of conflicts broke out in 1996 in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Belgian Congo, Congo-Leopoldville or Zaire), as a result of the spill-over of the civil war raging in the neighboring Rwanda. At the end of the armed conflict – involving Rwanda and Uganda – Mobutu had to abscond, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila become the new Congo’s President.
THE SECOND CONGO WAR
Already in 1998 Kabila’s alliance with Rwanda and Uganda had turned in a state of hostility. Rebel groups engaged an armed conflict against governmental forces. Due to the involvement of about 25 armed groups and eight States – Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe supporting DRC’s government, versus Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi supporting the rebels – the war is also known as Great War of Africa.
On 18 January 2001 Laurent Kabila died for the consequences of an attempt to his life, leaving the country in his son Joseph’s hands. After various ceasefire agreements during the years, the war formally ended in 2002. The peace agreement leads to new elections, won by Joseph Kabila.
THE CONFLICTS IN NORTH KIVU, SOUTH KIVU AND IN ITURI
New armed conflicts continued however in border regions of DRC between governmental forces and rebel groups. Ethnical differences and the high amount of natural resources present in the Kivus and in Ituri are among the main causes of the hostilities. Despite the fragile peace agreements signed in 2007 (Ituri) and in 2009 (Kivus), thousands of people keep dying due to famine and devastations left by the conflicts.
In 2005 the International Court of Justice recognized Uganda’s responsibility for violation of DRC territorial integrity during the Second Congo war, and for the unlawful exploitation of a consistent amount of DRC’s natural resources.
In 2005 Joseph Kabila referred DRC’s situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the Prosecutor to open investigations on crimes committed anywhere on DRC’s territory since the entry into force of the ICC Statute. To date the ICC has indicted five people for the situation in DRC. Among these, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the first person ever to be convicted by the ICC.