Congolese warlord Germain Katanga was convicted at the International Criminal Court on Friday of being an accessory to four war crimes and one crime against humanity committed during a 2003 village attack in which some 200 civilians were killed.
The Hague-based court, however, acquitted Katanga, also known as "Simba", of other charges related to the attack on the village of Bogoro in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo on February 24, 2003.
Reading the verdict, only the second conviction in the International Criminal Court's 11-year history, presiding judge Bruno Cotte said that without Katanga's aid in procuring firearms, the attack would not have been as bloody.
"Absent that supply of weapons ... commanders would not have been able to carry out the attack with such efficiency," Cotte said at the conclusion of the five-year trial.
Katanga was the one-time commander of the ethnic-based Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri, operating in the diamond-rich northeast of Congo.
The case was a key test of the prosecutors' ability to bring solid cases and win at the tribunal in The Hague. The verdict was only the ICC's third since opening its doors more than a decade ago. It was also the first time charges at the court have included sexual violence.
Katanga, 35, faced seven counts of war crimes and three of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery and rape for his alleged role in the attack.
Prosecutors alleged Katanga and his force of the Ngiti and Lendu tribes attacked villagers of the Hema ethnic group with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and machetes.
The conviction was controversial. In a dissenting opinion, judge Christine van den Wijngaerdt said the decision to convict Katanga as an accessory, when he had originally been charged with playing an essential role in the attack, meant his trial was unfair.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-07