The International Criminal Court on Friday convicted former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga of war crimes including murder related to a deadly 2003 attack on an eastern village.
The Hague-based court found Katanga guilty of “murder as a crime against humanity” and “murder as a war crime”. He was also convicted of attacks on a civilian population, and destroying enemy property and pillaging.
Katanga was, however, acquitted of charges of rape and sexual slavery — as crimes against humanity and as war crimes.
He was also found not guilty of using child soldiers, a war crime under the Statute of Rome, the court’s founding document.
Katanga was to remain in detention until sentencing, presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said.
The charges related to the massacre of several hundred civilians from the Hema ethnic group in 2003 during the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On February 24, 2003, militias from the Lendu ethnic group — to which Katanga belongs — and other allied tribes were alleged to have attacked the Hema village of Borogo in the Ituri district in the north-east of the country.
The fighters are said to have killed, plundered and raped their way through the village, leaving around 200 civilians dead.
Congolese authorities arrested and surrendered Katanga, who is also known as Simba, to the ICC in 2007.
Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, as commanders of the armed groups responsible for the massacre, were jointly accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including wilful killing and sexual slavery.
The two were also accused of using child soldiers, a war crime under the Statute of Rome.
In December 2012, the ICC acquitted Ngudjolo Chui, saying that his alleged involvement in the 2003 massacre could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“There is no doubt that terrible crimes were committed,” said presiding Judge Bruno Cotte at the time.
But the ICC emphasized that “the fact of deciding that an accused is not guilty does not necessarily mean that the chamber finds him innocent”. In 1994, an ethnic conflict erupted in the former Belgian colony of the DR Congo when rebels crossed the border after the genocide in Rwanda. The war formally ended in 2003, but fighting continued in the east of the country.
From January 2002 to December 2003, an ethnic conflict between the Hema and Lendu was estimated to have displaced more than 500,000 civilians and caused 8,000 deaths.
The ICC, an independent, permanent court founded in 1998 in cooperation with the United Nations, entered operation in 2002 with the aim of prosecuting the world’s most serious war crimes.