CONGOLESE warlord Germain Katanga has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his part in an attack on a village in north-east Congo more than a decade ago in which the victims were “carved” limb from limb.
Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague said Katanga – who was 24 at the time of the attack and is also known as “Simba”, or “the lion” – was crucial in arming ethnic Lendu and Ngiti fighters who attacked Bogoro village, killing some 200 ethnic Hema civilians.
“The attackers literally carved their victims up limb from limb,” presiding judge Bruno Cotte said at the sentencing in the Netherlands yesterday.
“The attackers slashed them with machetes and knives as they tried to make their escape.” He added: “The scars of the fighting that occurred that day are still to be seen today.”
Katanga becomes only the second person sentenced by the court, set up 12 years ago to bring to justice those guilty of the most serious international crimes, but which has been criticised for slow justice and accused of singling out Africans for prosecution.
The February 2003 raid was part of a broader conflict in the resource-rich Ituri region of north-east Congo in the early 2000s.
Several participants in that conflict have come before the ICC, including warlord Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced to 14 years for the crime of using child soldiers.
Judges ruled that the seven years Katanga had already spent in the ICC’s detention centre before and during his trial should count towards his sentence.
He could be eligible for early release next year, when he will have served two thirds of his sentence. He can appeal against his conviction.
According to documents filed as part of his arrest warrant, Katanga is married, to Denise, and is a father of two.
He is the son of Jacob Nduru and Elizabeth Regine, alleged leader of the Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri.
His father is reportedly being held in detention at the Centre Pénitentiaire et de Rééducation de Kinshasa and is also known as “Simba”.
The ICC hearing is not the first time Katanga has come up against the international authorities.
He was arrested by Congolese officials in early March 2005 in connection with the killing of nine United Nations peacekeepers in Ituri on 25 February, 2005. He was held without charge until his transfer to the ICC in October 2007.
In November 2005, a United Nations Security Council committee imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Katanga for violating an arms embargo.
He was convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Bogoro massacre on 7 March this year, following a trial which began in late 2009.
Katanga’s co-accused, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, was acquitted of similar charges in December 2012 because of the lack of evidence for his role in the massacre.